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Paterno has surgery to repair broken leg, injured knee

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State coach Joe Paterno had surgery on his broken left leg and two torn knee ligaments, and plans to coach next weekend — possibly from a box above the field.

The 79-year-old coach underwent surgery Sunday and was resting comfortably the next day at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

“He’s expected to make a full recovery,” assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said.

Paterno’s son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, said that the 80-minute procedure went well and that his father was working from his hospital bed, getting ready for Saturday’s game against Temple.

Paterno fractured the top of his tibia, or shin bone, after two players ran into him during the Nittany Lions’ 13-3 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, according to team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli. The school said Monday that Paterno also tore ligaments in the knee.

Doctors inserted several screws into his leg and fitted Paterno with a temporary brace. Paterno could put weight back on the leg in about six weeks, Sebastianelli said.

The school said Paterno planned to coach against Temple, but it was unclear whether he would lead the Lions on the sidelines or from a coach’s box above Beaver Stadium.

Paterno decided on surgery after trying to resume his normal Sunday routine while laid up at home, where he reviewed tapes, barked out orders over a speakerphone and began preparing for the Owls.

The younger Paterno said he spoke with his father and there was “no thought whatsoever of not coming back this year. ... It’s not even in the discussion.”

The elder Paterno is in his 41st year as Penn State head coach and under contract through the end of 2008. Only Amos Alonzo Stagg coached as long with one school, leading the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1932.

Paterno’s 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State’s Bobby Bowden.

Fans hoped for the best. A bronze statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium had a bandage wrapped around the left leg, and a sign hanging around the neck that read, “Get well soon!! We (love) U JoePa!!” Former players such as O.J. McDuffie, KiJana Carter and Michael Robinson called or sent messages of concern.

Paterno was knocked to the turf Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., when Nittany Lions tight end Andrew Quarless and Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy barreled into him. Replays showed Levy colliding helmet-first with Paterno’s left leg as the linebacker fell while tackling Quarless.

Paterno stood for several minutes along the sideline after getting hit before being helped to the bench, where he remained seated most of the third quarter surrounded by trainers and police. He was carted to the locker room with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter, and flown back to State College on Saturday night ahead of his team.

It has been a rough season physically for Paterno.

Paterno had to leave the sideline during Penn State’s game at Ohio State on Sept. 23 after he became ill — the first time he left the field during a game in more than four decades as head coach. He returned briefly at halftime, then left again before coming back at the start of the fourth quarter.

In practice the following week, Paterno was blindsided by two players — including Quarless — going full-bore for a pass. Paterno didn’t run out with his team before the next game, a win over Northwestern, and hobbled along the sideline.

“He’s a stubborn son of a gun,” Jay Paterno said.

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