STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania -- Penn State's Blue Band formed two lines facing each other and belted out the fight song.
Nearly 600 athletes from almost every other varsity sports team then joined the band in creating a pathway for the Penn State football team.
The players flew through the tunnel to the chant that has echoed through Happy Valley since school started one week ago: "We are... Penn State."
The message was clear. These fans had come from near and far -- from the dorms and from up and down the coasts -- to see the season opener against Ohio University and to mark a new chapter in Penn State football.
"It means more than anything. It means so much to be a part of this rebuilding process," freshman Avi Kallmeyer said as he prepared to take his seat in the first row of the student section. "We're still here, and we're not going anywhere. We're ready."
Members of this community are ready to show the world they are more than a scandal that has become synonymous with their school, and to prove that crippling NCAA sanctions and a few key transfers won't deter them from coming out in throngs for what many would argue is one of the most important games in recent history.
It is their first time opening a season without former head coach Joe Paterno, who was fired after administration officials said he did not do enough in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. And there are signs that the loss of Paterno, who died two months after his firing, still sting deep in State College.
In the spot outside Gate A where university officials tore down his statue, a small bobble-head was placed in the ground. Many students and alumni stopped to take pictures or pose in signature "JoePa" fashion. Mackenzie Conrad, a 9-year-old, wore a Paterno mask. Chants of the late co