The Penn State alma mater was sung by a crowd of about 99,902 fans at Beaver Stadium on Saturday for the last home game of the season.
Fans like Madigan Truesdale and about six family members from Bellefonte linked arms and swayed back and forth as they were accompanied by the Penn State Blue Band.
The Nittany Lions lost to Michigan State, 34-10, in a game that honored its seniors, and was deemed the “Blue-out” game to spread awareness about child abuse prevention.
The mission was started by two students in 2011 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
And it was “heartbreakers” like Saturday’s game that Penn State fan Sandy Kristobak embraced players like her own children, after the game, to show support — win or lose, she said.
One of Kristobak’s recent memories was mingling with the players, and giving wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and running back Akeel Lynch hugs for encouragement after the loss against Ohio State on Oct. 25.
It’s a tradition she does after nearly every home game, when the players exit Beaver Stadium about a half-hour after the game is finished.
“I love these guys,” she said. “These boys are like my kids, and I don’t miss a game. I’m here to support them like I would my family. I never left a game early for my kids, and I won’t leave a game early for them.”
Kristobak has been attending Penn State football games for at least 15 years, of which the past five she hasn’t missed a home game, along with her husband Mark Kristobak, a 1982 graduate of Penn State.
The couple is from Rochester, N.Y., but have a condominium in State College.
Their son, Nick Kristobak, is a 2006 Penn State graduate, and daughter Sabrina Kristobak graduated last year.
Nick Kristobak made the flight from his home in Los Angeles for Saturday afternoon’s game, and called his mother, “Penn State’s No. 1 fan.”
Their whole tailgate party included more than a dozen family, friends, students, and a Thon family who were clad primarily in blue.
“We’re here all the time and made a second family with the people we tailgate with, and sit with in the stands,” Sandy Kristobak. “There’s something about this atmosphere that’s like no other.”
But this football season was special, Kristobak said.
“They endured a lot and I give them a ton of credit for staying,” she said about the players who stuck with Penn State after the NCAA revoked scholarships and banned the team from post season play. “The team was held together under Bill O’Brien — and now coach (James) Franklin — these guys who played for pride of their school, and the fans who support this team no matter what.”
Most sanctions were lifted in September. The Nittany Lions are also bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.
“It’s cool that the players stayed despite what happened,” said senior marketing major Bob Evans. “I think now that we can go to a bowl game, it’s kind of like a way to reward the players.”
The Nittany Lions ended regular season with a 6-6 record — something fans hope they can improve on next year.
“I’d just like to see improvement on all levels,” said senior Tyler Molnar. “I think now that sanctions were lifted, it will help the team and boost their confidence maybe, but it will be a long process.”
Mark Kristobak said he thinks there’s hope.
“We have a young team with a lot of potential, and a lot of good leadership,” he said. “I think we’re actually one of the youngest teams in college football … and there are great fans that are a lot like family giving them a lot of support.”