|With new deal and hip, Paterno rosy at Rose Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 December 2008 12:22|
``I don't give a darn about your new year, but I hope mine's happy,'' Penn State's 82-year-old coach said Tuesday with a chuckle.
With a Big Ten championship, a surgically repaired hip and a new contract that could keep him around until 2011, Paterno's has plenty of reasons to be in a good mood.
Next up for the iconic octogenarian and No. 6 Penn State (11-1): a date Thursday with No. 5 Southern California (11-1) at the Rose Bowl in a made-for-Hollywood coaching matchup.
Only Paterno could outshine USC head coach Pete Carroll - college football's golden boy in Los Angeles - on the Trojans' home turf.
The Trojans are 3-0 against the Big Ten in Rose Bowls coached under Carroll, outscoring opponents by a combined, 109-49. Overall, USC has been to seven BCS bowls in Carroll's eight seasons.
But Paterno, in his 43rd season as the lead Lion at Penn State, is the career leader in bowl wins (23) and appearances (36).
Whether JoePa will be pacing the sidelines in Pasadena for Penn State (11-1) in his trademark khakis and black sneakers remains unclear.
Almost six weeks after surgery to fix a sore hip that kept him in the press box for much of the season, Paterno said he's not in pain, though his right leg does get tired.
Besides rehab, Paterno is also walking around again at practice. Before surgery, JoePa did his poking and prodding on the practice field from a golf cart.
``I've seen him jogging a couple times,'' quarterback Daryll Clark said. ``He's not of this world, man. I keep telling people that. ... I really hope he's down there on the sideline.''
Doctors had initially told him he wouldn't be able ``to do anything until six or seven weeks,'' Paterno said.
``I probably could do about everything but I'm a little concerned. I can't make a lot of quick movements right now,'' he added. ``I don't know. I really don't know.''
earlier this month to go another three years, which would put him at 85 in 2011.
Paterno called the university gracious for giving him the deal. He thanked his bosses and his assistant coaches for their loyalty.
But don't get too carried away that 2011 might REALLY be it for major college football's winningest coach.
``It has helped in a sense that some (recruits) know when I tell them that I'll be around three, four, five more years, that it is probably a reality,'' Paterno said.
USC's Brian Cushing was one of those recruits four years ago, when Paterno visited the linebacker at his Park Ridge, N.J., home to try to convince him to attend Penn State.
Back then, in late 2004, the Nittany Lions were coming off a string of four losing seasons in five years. Some critics had called for Paterno's dismissal.
Cushing ultimately decided on USC because he wanted to get further away from home, though Paterno's future was a factor, too.
``A little bit. I was thinking about what was going on and what was he going to do,'' Cushing said. ``I was concerned about the whole fact of whether he was going to be there three or four years.''
Now, he's going to finish his college career against Paterno. Carroll, looking for an edge, has even asked Cushing questions about his conversations with his Penn State adversary.
While he admires Paterno, Carroll said he didn't really try to model himself after the Brooklyn-born JoePa when he was getting ready to go into college coaching.
``Not really, I'm more of a West Coast guy, and didn't get caught up in that regard, didn't follow the style of play at all,'' Carroll said before quipping, ``but yeah, I rolled up my pants a little bit.''
With speculation about Paterno's health and contract status resolved, JoePa's full concentration is on getting ready for Carroll's tough team.
The six-week layoff since Penn State's last game, on Nov. 22 against Michigan, isn't as much of a concern to him as the practice schedule and time commitments associated with a big bowl game.
A stickler for an isolated game-week routine for his team, Paterno has had to balance 1-hour drives to practice with the crush of bowl-related responsibilities, as well as giving his players enough time to enjoy their trip West.
On the field, Paterno USC's top-ranked defense remains a big worry, as well as the potential for Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez to get hot and put the Nittany Lions behind in a hurry.
It's partly why Paterno held an abbreviated 15-minute session with reporters during Tuesday's frantic half-hour media day session. He walked out the hotel door, climbed into a van and headed back to work.