UVA dispatched Richmond last weekend in most ordinary fashion.
This Saturday’s contest against Penn State will be anything but ordinary, no matter the outcome.
The NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions on PSU in the wake of Jerry Sandusky’s conviction on 45 counts of child sex abuse and a subsequent report that accused school officials of concealing allegations against the former assistant coach.
“Our goal is not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be place ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert, who added that no action could remove the victims’ pain and anguish.
The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, and a significant reduction in the allotment of scholarships. The NCAA also vacated Penn State’s 112 wins from 1998-2011, dropping Joe Paterno from first to 12th on the list of winningest coaches in college football history.
Paterno was fired in November amid the scandal and died in January at the age of 85. He had coached at Penn State since 1950.
Bill O’Brien was hired just days before his predecessor’s death. Most recently offensive coordinator of the NFL’s New England Patriots, O’Brien has made coaching stops at Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Duke. He inherited a nine-win team from a season ago, but one that lost nine players to transfer following the NCAA sanctions.
Just as Virginia prepared to take the field against Richmond last Saturday, Ohio University was wrapping up its first win of the season – a 24-14 victory over Penn State in front 97,186 fans in State College, Pa.
“Other than the fact it was my first football game as a head coach, I didn’t sense anything different about today,” O’Brien said. “I thought it was a great atmosphere in the stands and Beaver Stadium. It starts with me coaching better and making sure that we play better the next time we play at home and against Virginia.”
UVA is a 10-point favorite against PSU. The game will be televised nationally by ABC.
A LOOK BACK
- Virginia welcomes Penn State to Charlottesville for the first time since Dec. 1, 2001 – a game originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, but postponed due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Virginia won that game 20-14, denying PSU bowl eligibility in the process. Matt Schaub split time at quarterback with Bryson Spinner, while Antwoine Womack rushed for a game-high 153 yards.
- Midway through the third quarter, UVA defensive back Art Thomas returned a fumble 92 yards for a touchdown. It remains the longest fumble return in school history.
- That season, Joe Paterno passed Paul “Bear” Bryant as the all-time winningest coach in Division I.
- Penn State has won five of the seven games in a series that dates back to 1893. The schools have not played since 2002, when UVA fell 35-14 in State College, Pa.