UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - A preseason hit still has Joe Paterno sore, while the Penn State quarterback job apparently remains open even after a solid outing last week from Matt McGloin.
Yet through all the drama, the 21st-ranked Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) find themselves in an enviable position two months into the season: alone in first place in the Leaders Division heading into Saturday's game against Illinois.
"It's been tough. It's a pain in the neck, let me put it that way," Paterno said Tuesday at Beaver Stadium about rebounding from his injuries. "But what are you going to do, you know? I don't think it's affected the chance for the football team to get better because of the (coaching) staff."
These are the times when 159 years' worth of experience among the Penn State assistants might be especially beneficial. The 84-year-old Paterno injured his right shoulder and pelvis after 155-pound receiver Devon Smith accidentally leveled him in practice Aug. 7.
He was back to nearly 100 percent when a near-miss on the sideline Oct. 8 in the 13-3 win over Iowa left him sore again, including his right leg. He's been hesitant about being downstairs ever since, worried that he might be a distraction.
At practice, Paterno tries to do as much coaching as he can on his feet, but he gets achy after a while and spends about the last half-hour or so of the two-hour session monitoring from a golf cart.
"I've turned over things to the staff at times where I used to get in there and mix it up with the kids a little bit, which I hope I'll get back to," Paterno said. "It's a little different environment than I like. But ... I think that staff has adjusted well. I think the kids have, too."
Right tackle Chima Okoli said Paterno's injuries stem from getting involved and "wanting to be close to the action."
Paterno has called the view from the press box "for the birds." Okoli, though, said the Nittany Lions have been fine when Paterno isn't stalking the sideline.
"There's no different aura on the sideline," the affable senior said. "It's not really a drop-off at all."
The same arguably can't be said at quarterback, where McGloin paced Penn State's passing attack in a 34-24 win last week over Northwestern by going 17 of 26 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. For the first time all season, McGloin started and Bolden didn't play a snap.
Don't read into that too much, though.
The quarterback job is apparently open again - and Paterno wasn't in much mood to talk about it with the media. He feels both McGloin and Bolden can help win them games.
"I haven't got the slightest idea yet," Paterno said when asked who he planned to start Saturday.
"I told Matt he did a good job," he said when asked to evaluate McGloin's performance against the Wildcats.
Finally, Paterno relented to more than a one-sentence answer when asked if he was frustrated about answering questions about quarterbacks.
"Well, if you guys want to talk about it, you can talk all you want. I'm not talking about it. I'm not tired of talking about it," Paterno said. "We only lost one game, and the game we lost had nothing to do with the quarterback play."
Still, statistics and recent trends give an edge to McGloin. He's averaging nearly 137 passing yards a game to 75 for Bolden. While Bolden has started six of seven games, McGloin has been finishing games of late.
Then again, if the rushing attack keeps clicking, it may not matter who's calling the plays in the huddle.
Tailback Silas Redd has run for at least 129 yards in Big Ten play, including a career-high 164 against Northwestern. The vastly improved running game, in turn, helped open up more play action for McGloin against the Wildcats and helped the speedy receiver Smith notch a career-best 110 yards and a score on six catches.
A good sign for the Penn State offense given it will be without top wideout Derek Moye (left foot) for a third straight game this week.
"He's not afraid to run into you," Paterno said about Smith in a lighthearted jab at himself. "I know how tough he can block."