Paterno's injury overshadows PSU victory
WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. -- Joe Paterno hates it, but he's overshadowing his Penn State team.
Despite the fact that the Nittany Lions are 6-0 after beating Purdue, 20-6, on Saturday, and ranked No. 6 in the most recent AP poll, the spotlight is on their 81-year-old coach, who again this week was forced to shun the sidelines in favor of the coaches box.
The working story had been that Paterno injured his right leg in practice before the first game doing an onside kick near the end of practice. But Paterno also suffered a broken left leg and knee injury two years ago at Wisconsin that required surgery and forced him to miss one game entirely and coach two games, including the Outback Bowl, from the coaches box.
Paterno muddied the waters after his team beat Purdue, as he explained his current physical problem.
"When I was horsing around with trying to get this one (leg) good and that one, I over did it on this one, so I've got a little arthritis," he said. "I take some stuff. Some days I feel great. Some days I don't."
This game, on a clear, sunny, comfortably warm afternoon, was a day when Paterno was in obvious pain. He was on the field for approximately 20 minutes during pregame warmups to talk to Purdue coach Joe Tiller and observe drills, then he went upstairs, limping noticeably.
After the game, Paterno wore unmatched shoes and had to steady himself with the podium.
"I have to hold on to something," he said.
At the end of his news conference, Paterno was helped out a side door and into a van, which took him to a waiting Penn State University airplane for the trip home ahead of the team. He also followed that procedure on an earlier return from Syracuse.
Penn State (6-0, 2-0) won this game in business-like fashion, shaking off a scoreless first quarter to lead 10-0 at the half on a 1-yard Daryll Clark sneak and a 25-yard Kevin Kelly field goal.
Evan Royster, who netted 141 rushing yards on 18 carries, scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter, and Kelly added 20-yard field goal early in the fourth.
Purdue (2-3, 0-1) got a 1-yard TD run from Kory Sheets, its first offensive touchdown versus Penn State in 12 consecutive quarters.
Paterno's status for the Penn State game at Wisconsin on Saturday night is unclear. He stressed there is no surgery in his immediate future.
"I'm not letting anybody get near me with a knife," he said.
His son, Jay, the team's quarterbacks coach, had a possible exception.
"Unless my mom's cooking spaghetti or cutting up pasta or something," he said. "She can get near him with a knife, but nobody else is going to get near him with a knife."
The elder Paterno also lamented that he's been forced to take painkillers.
"I've taken more pills in the last two months than I've taken all my life," he said. "I tell people, in the old days, when I was a kid, when something ached, my mom threw me in the tub, put steaming water in there, brought out the olive oil and rubbed it in my head.
"Or stuck some garlic in my mouth."
Lacking those home-style remedies, the elder Paterno said that regarding his health, he must play it, "literally, day by day."
Concerns are mounting about Joe Paterno's ability to finish the season or coach beyond it.
"It's going to be week to week, I guess, is what he's saying, and we'll go from there," Jay Paterno said. "I think, when the season's over, and he stops kicking balls in practice and everything, he'll be all right. It won't be a problem for him."
Penn State players were trying to be optimistic, too.
"We're a little worried," Clark said. "His leg's been bothering him for a little while now. But he's still there at practice doing what he can."
Added wide receiver Deon Butler: "We're concerned about him. He's a great guy, and he's our coach, and everyone feels dearly for him. I think ... we trust the doctors that he has around him and everything like that.
"We know he'll get better, but when you get up in age like he is, you just have to take it slowly. You can't just bounce back and jump right on the field. I think he'll be on the sidelines for the real important games that he feels that the team really needs him to be there."