Penn State coach Joe Paterno leans on a crutch Saturday.AP PHOTO
STATE COLLEGE -- Joe Paterno gingerly walked into the media room, sat down and clutched the cane he said he no longer needed.What Paterno says and what he actually feels can be hard to distinguish these days.
The 84-year-old coach again put on a resilient face after Saturday’s 41-7 season-opening win against Indiana State -- one that he spent upstairs in the coaches booth instead of down on the sideline.
Still smarting from that August collision with Devon Smith that injured his right arm and hip, Paterno reluctantly listened to his doctors and didn’t put himself in the middle of more sideline traffic while he recovers.
“I really probably could have (been on the field) today, but the doc didn’t want me to do it,” Paterno said. “They’re afraid I won’t get out of the way and maybe something fluky would happen.
“And I’m still sore. You guys can see me here -- it’s obvious. But I can walk on it. Sometimes I walk without the cane when I’m home. I’ve got to learn to walk up and down steps without the cane, the whole bit.”
Paterno expressed optimism that he will be able to return to the sideline for next Saturday’s game against No. 2 Alabama. But his past estimates on his recovery time have been off. He originally said in mid-August that he would “absolutely” be down on the field for the season opener.
Saturday was the first time Paterno coached a game from upstairs since the Nittany Lions’ Rose Bowl loss to USC on Jan. 1, 2009. Paterno had injured his left hip early in the 2008 season and spent the majority of that season up in the booth before having replacement surgery that November.
Penn State escaped relatively unscathed, as the team liberally rotated players at every position on a muggy afternoon.
Only backup offensive tackle Mike Farrell appeared to be worse for the wear after the game, suffering a right knee sprain.
Wide receiver Curtis Drake, who is recovering from a broken leg for the second time in as many years, surprisingly suited up for the game and took part in team warm-ups. He did not, however, see the field.
More players missed time for the Lions for disciplinary reasons. Tailback Stephfon Green and kicker Anthony Fera both rejoined the team after preseason camp ended but neither played against the Sycamores.
While Green was not missed this week, Penn State struggled in the kicking game without Fera. Walk-on Evan Lewis missed both field goals he attempted (38 and 47 yards) and also missed an extra point.
Lewis was benched after the failed PAT in favor of true freshman Sam Ficken.
Paterno said Fera would likely return to action next week against the Crimson Tide or the following Saturday at Temple.
Two other true freshmen joined Ficken on the field. Wide receiver Allen Robinson and cornerback Adrian Amos.
Robinson did not catch a pass, but Amos made himself known by coming up with an interception and returning it 46 yards into Indiana State territory to set up a touchdown.
Elsewhere on the team, tailback Silas Redd, receiver Shawney Kersey and linebacker Glenn Carson made their first career starts for the Lions.
Senior fullback Joe Suhey scored his first career rushing touchdown, while Derek Day and Zach Zwinak picked up their first career carries.
Lake-Lehman alum Kenny Pollock made his first career appearance for the Lions in the fourth quarter.