Updated Wed, Aug 29, 2012 11:49 am
On Saturday at noon, when you turn on ESPN to watch what is shaping up to be an intriguing week one game in Happy Valley, you will see a special symbol on the uniforms of both teams.
Penn State has announced that its football players will wear blue ribbons on their jerseys to honor victims of child abuse in each game this season, and it was reported Saturday that Ohio would join Penn State in this dedication.
The Bobcats will take the field Saturday wearing helmets with special decals to mirror those worn by Penn State in honor of victims of child abuse. According to Ohio Athletic Director Jim Schaus, this was done “to join the Penn State team in showing support for child abuse victims.” According to the NCAA, no other team has contacted Penn State about paying tribute to child abuse victims this season.
It’s no doubt that the first game of the season carries incredible significance for both teams, as pointed out by Alex Marcheschi. Penn State is looking to rebuild going into its first game of the official post-Paterno era; God rest his soul. Meanwhile, expectations have never been higher in Athens as Ohio brings back some key starters from last year’s ten-win season, which culminated in the team’s first bowl win in school history.
“It’s huge,” said junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton about the matchup. “Any time we have a chance to go in there and play a Big 10, BCS opponent, like Penn State, it’s going to be huge for this program.”
Ohio athletics as a whole is as hot a ticket as ever. With the recent success of the men’s basketball, volleyball and football teams, the buzz around campus for Ohio sports has never been higher, and a win for the football team Saturday in a vulnerable Penn State team’s backyard would only continue that upward trend.
“We’re all excited and ready for the task at hand, and we feel like we have a really good chance of going in there and taking one from them,” said Tettleton.
But preparing for any opening game has its difficulties. The most recent film of opposing players is from the previous season, so teams are often left to guess about their week one matchups. On top of this, Penn State has an entirely new coaching staff and some significant roster turnover, so head coach Frank Solich has had his hands full.
“You’re piecing it together because their staff is a new staff so they’ve come from different college programs, their head coach is out of the pros, a new special teams coach, so you’re just looking at a lot of different film from a lot of different schools hoping that they don’t change too much and that you’re not surprised too much,” said Solich.
And you can count on 108,000 screaming fans to pack Beaver Stadium with hope for the new regime in Happy Valley.
“That’s going to be different,” said Tettleton, “but it’s going to be fun at the same time, to go into a hostile, crazy environment like that. And I know more than anything it’s going to be fun and a great chance for us to go in there and prove ourselves and play a really good team in Penn State.”
And Penn State is still a really good team. As if the fact that the Nittany Lions play in the Big 10 wasn’t enough, they will undoubtedly have a chip on their shoulders and look to make it clear that after an offseason of losing vacated wins, players to transfer, and the opportunity to compete in the post season for the next four seasons, Penn State has not lost its pride.
But the Bobcats have a chip on their shoulders as well. And the chance to prove themselves on national television amid lofty expectations at home only motivates the players.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Tettleton. “It’s just been amazing to be here and be a part of this program. Hopefully we can just build on it, and not really focus on the outside stuff and just play our game and just take it one game, one week at a time.”
But whether the teams approach it any differently or not, Saturday’s game is about more than just football. For Penn State, it is the start of something new – the first step of a journey back to the light after being cast in darkness in an offseason to forget. For Ohio, it’s building on recent success – solidifying the name of a rising program in its most prominent days in history. But perhaps on a larger scale, it’s about the children. Saturday’s game is about taking a stand against all forms of child abuse and showing support for anyone who has ever experienced the incredible misfortune of dealing with this at a young age. The patches on Penn State’s uniforms and the decals on Ohio’s helmets are a symbol of love, hope, peace, and unity.
So when you watch on ESPN and see the blue ribbons on both teams’ uniforms, be reminded of that.