(Reuters) - Penn State's team lost the TicketCity Bowl to the University of Houston on Monday, capping a terrible year for the celebrated college football program after a former coach was charged with serial sex abuse of boys.
The Nittany Lions, who finished the regular football season with a record of nine wins and three losses, were snubbed by several more prominent bowls after the scandal erupted.
Penn State faced an aerial bombardment from Houston quarterback Case Keenum on Monday, who threw for 532 yards during the game, won by Houston 30 to 14.
Penn State was playing in its first bowl game since legendary head coach Joe Paterno was ousted for failing to alert police about what he knew about the sex abuse allegations.
After the game, interim Penn State head coach Tom Bradley said it had been a difficult year.
"These kids have been through hell and back," Bradley said of the football players coping with the scandal, which emerged in early November and overshadowed the rest of the season.
Joe Paterno's son, Jay, an assistant coach for Penn State, choked back emotion after the game in Dallas as he was asked about his 85-year-old father, who has been diagnosed with cancer and is recovering from a fall and broken pelvis.
"I'm looking forward to everybody knowing what I know about him and his character and that he has always done what is right," Jay Paterno said.
Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces 52 charges of sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period. He denies the allegations.
Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired in the fallout from the scandal, and the athletic director and a top finance official were charged with lying to a grand jury about the abuse.
Interim coach Bradley has interviewed to succeed Paterno but Penn State has not yet announced a new head coach.
(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Barbara Goldberg)