Sue Paterno attends Penn State season opener

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Associated Press

Posted on September 1, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 1 at 5:32 PM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The widow of the late Joe Paterno cheered on Penn State in the Nittany Lions' historic season opener Saturday against Ohio.

Sue Paterno and her daughter, Mary Kay, arrived about 15 minutes before the noon kickoff and came in through an employee entrance relatively unnoticed.

When asked by the Associated Press what Saturday's game meant to her, Sue Paterno quietly said she "just wants us to win."

That wasn't meant to be. Despite holding a 14-3 lead at halftime, Penn State wore down late, and Ohio, from the Mid-American Conference, rallied for a 24-14 upset victory.

A family spokesman has said the Paternos did not want to deflect attention away from the team or the game, which featured the debut of Joe Paterno's successor, Bill O'Brien.

Sporting sunglasses, Sue Paterno clutched her purse and swiftly made her way to the entrance from a nearby parking lot. She passed crowds snapping pictures of a makeshift shrine dedicated to her husband atop a small hill where a bronzed statue of Joe Paterno used to stand.

It's the first game at Penn State without a Paterno on the coaching staff since 1949. Joe Paterno started as an assistant in 1950 before being promoted to head coach in 1966.

Paterno was fired in November following 46 seasons, days after former assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child molestation charges. Paterno's son, quarterback coach Jay Paterno, has also left the staff.

Joe Paterno died in January.

The family, as part of Paterno's employment agreement, received use of a Beaver Stadium suite for 25 years.

The Paterno family has vehemently denied conclusions in former FBI director Louis Freeh's report for Penn State that the Hall of Fame coach and three other school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 criminal counts. The family vowed its own investigation, which is still ongoing, spokesman Dan McGinn said.

McGinn said this week the family support of Penn State has not wavered.

"They're not looking for sympathy," McGinn said this week when asked how the Paternos have reacted to criticism. "The family is very stoic about this. The intent is just that the complete truth comes out."

As quietly as she arrived, Sue left the game before the fourth quarter in order to attend another football game. This one was a bit different. It was a youth game, featuring a grandson.

Also on the suite level, was former Penn State running back Franco Harris, a close friend of the family and an outspoken voice for Joe Paterno's legacy despite the scandal.

"I am excited about our new beginning with coach Bill O'Brien," Harris told the Associated Press. "But I will never forget our history and what we accomplished."

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