|Joe Paterno returns to sideline for No. 17 Penn State's opener|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 01 September 2007 12:04|
Wearing his trademark black sneakers and rolled-up khakis, the 80-year-old Paterno jogged out on to the field with his team after emerging from the tunnel, his face plastered on the giant stadium video screens.
``Paternoville 2K7'' read a sign behind the Penn State bench as JoePa started his record-breaking 42nd season as head coach on a picture-perfect afternoon. ``We are Penn State!'' cried the crowd before the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions routed Florida International, 59-0, in the season opener.
It didn't take long for Paterno to get back to his usual routine, pacing nervously up and down the sideline and barking orders to assistants.
With arms flailing, he got into the face of one official in the first quarter after disagreeing about a fumble lost by Penn State tailback Rodney Kinlaw.
A cart took Paterno off the field at Wisconsin last November after two players ran into him on the sideline in a violent collision. He spent the next week at home while recovering from surgery - missing a game for the first time since 1977.
Paterno watched the final two contests of the 2006 campaign from the press box. He hoped that offseason rehabilitation and long walks during his annual vacation at the beach would get him ready to return to the sideline for Saturday.
``I've got a new plan. I'm going to drop from a parachute,'' Paterno joked earlier this week.
It wasn't quite that dramatic, but fans were just as pumped up when the Nittany Lions trotted on to the field with Paterno leading the way.
``You sort of expect it with him,'' fan Richard Scheiner, 52, said as he took in the bronzed statue of JoePa outside the stadium. ``I don't want to think about what it would be like without him on'' the sidelines.
Paterno entered Saturday with 363 career wins, second among major college coaches only to Florida State's Bobby Bowden (366).