Combine equal helpings of social media, April Fools' Day and some mischievous young athletes.

Stir furiously with a fan following whose appetite for Penn State football is nearly bottomless.

Add some Blue-and-White sprinkles from a World Wide Web that continually feeds the ravenous Nittany Nation beast.

It's a recipe that produces a dessert that is largely predictable, yet remarkably tangy - a plate packed with PSU panic, followed by a side order of Happy Valley histrionics.

That's what happened earlier this week.

It started when a couple of Penn State's more prominent football players, with some help from willing accomplices otherwise known as their teammates, decided pull a well-coordinated April Fools' joke. It's what young men bordering on adulthood have been doing for centuries.

Robinson
Robinson (Mark Selders)

This was a little different, however. This was done in the computer age, when Twitter "rumors" become Internet "facts" faster than you can say Google.

It all started late Sunday night, when Allen Robinson, the Lions' standout wideout, and Bill Belton, PSU's talented backup running back, posted Tweets indicating that they had decided to transfer.

In a viral flash, the information roared through PSU fan forums. Some irate night owls in Nittany Nation wasted no time in posting some very angry and very ugly messages of their own, blasting the players for disloyalty and other unpardonable sins.

The players, seeing how their little prank had quickly devolved into a huge brouhaha , decided to pull the plug on the joke. Within a couple hours they came clean about their April Fools' fun. Some of the original Tweets were deleted.

It was over almost before it started.

The few hours of hysteria, however, did provide insight into just how prickly some Penn State fans have become since the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. That sensitivity grew exponentially after the severe sanctions handed down by the NCAA last summer. Some Blue-and-White pessimists have come to expect the worst.

Belton
Belton (Mark Selders)

So, it should come as no surprise when some members of Nittany Nation were more than willing to believe that Robinson and Belton would bolt. After all, the NCAA sanctions still allow any PSU player to transfer immediately without having to sit out a season at his new school.

In that climate, an April Fools' joke about transferring may not have been the wisest course of action. Head coach Bill O'Brien has likely already made that perfectly clear to both Robinson and Belton, and their teammates who participated in the prank.

Still, O'Brien shouldn't be too hard on his players. They're just a bunch of fun-loving, college kids trying to have a good time. That is a time-honored university tradition.

Unfortunately, it's a tradition that slammed head-first into a Social Media Era that leaves little room, or time, for a simple joking around. An innocent prank can almost instantly produce a tsunami of unexpected, and unwanted, consequences.

It's a lesson that Robinson and Belton learned the hard way this week.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.