Several Penn State football players reportedly took to Twitter late Wednesday to criticize the university's board of trustees decision to fire legendary coach Joe Paterno amid the sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistant coaches.
Junior quarterback Matt Gloin was among the first to react, according to PennLive.com, posting: "Wow. I would not be where I am today if it was not for Coach Paterno."
Senior wide receiver Derek Moye wrote: "It's messed up they are doing to a man who is a big reason Penn State is what it is today."
Junior wide receiver Justin Brown added: "This is like a bad dream."
Matt Stankiewitch, the team's starting center, told the Republican Herald that Wednesday was a "very emotional" day not just for university's football team, but for the entire college.
"It was emotional day this morning, emotional this afternoon and emotional now," he told the newspaper.
Most of the players were informed through text messages or tweets that the 84-year-old Paterno would retire at the end of the season, but hearing from the coaching icon himself that he was stepping down was unexpected, Stankiewitch said.
"It's not every day you go through that," he told the newspaper. "It's not every day you see a legend in your eyes go through that."
Stankiewitch said he and his teammates have been largely unaffected by the ongoing sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The team has had normal practices in preparation for Saturday's home finale against Nebraska at noon.
Stankiewitch told the newspaper that the team had a good practice on Wednesday, with team energy high. He said nationally-ranked Penn State will have extra motivation this weekend.
"Every week we have motivation to win," he told the newspaper. "Building the fire this week … you can't deny it. It's a little extra motivation for us to get this victory for Joe, get this victory for Penn State."
Saturday's contest will mark the first time since a 19-0 loss to Pittsburgh in 1949 that Penn State will be without Paterno on the coaching staff, according to the Daily Collegian, the school's independent newspaper. 2011 marks Paterno's 46th year as the team's head coach; Paterno is also first head coach to have been fired from the team, the Daily Collegian reports.
The ouster of the man affectionately known as "JoePa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers -- not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories -- a record for major college football -- won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.
After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
Former defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been named as the team's interim head coach. Bradley, 52, served as a graduate assistant in 1979 and has been a member of the coaching staff since 1980, the Daily Collegian reports.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.