* Security boosted ahead for game
* Officials monitoring Facebook, Twitter feeds
* Tailgate parties laden with food and drinks
By Ian Simpson and Ernest Scheyder
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Nov 12 (Reuters) - Police boosted security with mounted officers and helicopters for Penn State University’s final home football game on Saturday following the firing of its revered coach amid a child sex abuse scandal.
On a cold, sunny morning police monitored roads and patrolled from the air ahead of the mid-day match between No.12 ranked Penn State and No. 17 Nebraska that will be the first game in more than four decades without Joe Paterno, one of the most respected coaches in U.S. college football.
Police and university officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the mob violence that erupted on Wednesday evening after university trustees fired Paterno, 84, and college president Graham Spanier.
“There is going to be a significant police presence at Beaver Stadium this weekend,” Captain John Gardner, of the State College Police, told reporters on Friday.
Facebook and Twitter feeds will also be monitored.
University assistant coach Mike McQueary will also be absent from the game after being put on paid administrative leave on Friday.
McQueary testified to a grand jury that he saw former assistant coach Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky rape a boy in the showers at a campus locker room in 2002 and said he reported what he saw to Paterno.
The university had earlier barred him from attending Saturday’s game, citing “multiple” threats against him.
Paterno said he was told that Sandusky engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with a young boy. He told his boss but did not call the police.
Sandusky, 67, ran the Second Mile charity program for at-risk children and retained access to Penn State facilities after his retirement in 1999. Prosecutors said he met all his alleged victims through the nonprofit group, which says it cut ties with him in 2008.
He was charged last Saturday with sexually abusing eight young boys over more than a decade and former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former finance official Gary Schultz, were charged with failing to report an incident.
Sandusky, Curley and Schultz have all denied the charges.
Despite the heavy police presence, the campus of 45,000 students in central Pennsylvania was buzzing with activity early in the day with fans setting up tailgate parties that included tables laden with food and coolers filled with beer and wine in parking lots and on land near the stadium.
Scott Doht, of Lyons, Nebraska was making eggs for a morning omelet with about 10 close friends. He said he would be rooting for his home team and was looking forward to the game.
“They’ve been very welcoming to us,” said Doht, who flew in just for the game. “It means a lot to us. We feel like it’s a good rivalry and we look forward to hosting them next year.”
Jeff Beitinger, 34, of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, said the game “is the first step toward healing the Penn State community and supporting the team.”
Instead of the traditional white, students attending the game were encouraged to wear blue -- the color associated with a “stop child abuse” campaign.
College football in the United States is a popular sport that is televised to viewers across the country every Saturday during the season in late summer and autumn. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, which seats about 106,000, is one of the largest.
Late on Friday night, instead of the usual pregame rally, an estimated 10,000 students conducted a candlelight vigil in front of the main administration building for the young boys who were victims of alleged sex abuse.
“People want to move forward to rebuild the reputation that Penn State had, and the game tomorrow is going to be the start of it,” student Laura Ross, 21, said at the traditional home game tent encampment outside Beaver Stadium known as “Paternoville.”
Sandusky was once considered a likely successor to Paterno. The grand jury alleged, among other charges, that Sandusky had sexually assaulted a boy in a Penn State football locker room in 2002 and university officials failed to report the incident.
Paterno has not been charged but one of his sons confirmed that his father had hired J. Sedgwick “Wick” Sollers, a prominent Washington criminal defense lawyer.
The scandal reverberated as far as Wall Street when ratings agency Moody’s warned of a possible credit downgrade for Penn State.
The agency said the scandal could lead to lawsuits and settlements, weaker student demand, declines in philanthropic giving, and significant management or governance changes.
Penn State’s board of trustees on Friday appointed Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck & Co. and a Penn State alumnus, to head a special committee to investigate the events that lead up to the charges against Sandusky.
The mother of one boy who was an alleged victim of sexual abuse said on Friday she feared Sandusky could have had many more victims than the eight covered by the charges.
“The people that hid this need to pay for their actions. They allowed this to happen to a lot of kids,” the woman told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The program did not identify her and disguised her voice and appearance.