JoePa outlasts yet another coach in Meyer

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STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - For four years, Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski has been asked questions about his coach’s future. When will he step down? When will his last game be? The list goes on.

Now, three weeks before suiting up for the last time as a Nittany Lion, the affable senior will indeed play in a marquee coach’s last game _ only the Outback Bowl will be Urban Meyer’s finale at Florida.

As for Wisniewski’s coach, Joe Paterno? Well, he’s sticking around.

While the names on the other side of the field rotate like a revolving door, Penn State’s legendary coach continues to outlast them all. The Outback Bowl against the Gators (7-5) on New Year’s Day will be JoePa’s 37th postseason appearance in his 45th year as head coach, both major college records.

“I almost laughed when I heard that (Meyer) was retiring,” Wisniewski said Friday. “Our coach is 83, and our coach wants to come back. But hey, if that’s what he’s got to do, that’s what he’s got to do.”

The 46-year-old Meyer resigned Wednesday for the second time in less than a year. His first attempt a year ago, for health reasons, lasted just a day. But this time, Meyer said he’s stepping away to focus on family and other interests away from the sideline. As if the high-profile coaching matchup didn’t hog enough of the spotlight _ each has won two national titles at their respective schools, after all.

Brushing aside another question about his own future, though, Paterno in turn heaped praise on Meyer, calling him an innovator and one of the “great coaches of the last 25 years.”

“I’m up in the middle of the night looking at tapes. I’m trying to put myself in his head _ this is what they’re going to try to do us,” said a raspy-voiced Paterno, battling a cold. “I haven’t got time for the other nonsense.”

The other nonsense, meaning his long-term future, of course. For the record, Paterno said two weeks ago, he planned to return for 2011, the final season of a three-year extension.

He went about his business this season as the never-ending rumor mill in Happy Valley kept churning out whispers that this may be his finale. At times, it looked like the Nittany Lions indeed needed a change. In the end, though, Paterno will continue to mentor this young team that went 7-5 this season, and could be much better next.

So please _ he begged reporters again this week _ stop asking about retirement.

“I haven’t even thought about that. You guys are the guys talking about that … ready to bury me,” said Paterno, who turns 84 on Dec. 21 _ two days after the players’ due date in Tampa. “We’ve got to play a tough football team.”

The Nittany Lions should have a few reinforcements back by gametime. Linebacker Michael Mauti said Friday he would be ready after being hampered by a right shoulder injury. Defensive end Eric Latimore (left wrist) is probable after missing six games, and Paterno also hoped to have punter Anthony Fera (appendectomy) available, after missing the last two games.

Matt McGloin remains the starting quarterback after helping to revive the offense in the season’s second half. Touted freshman Rob Bolden is the backup.

A bit unclear, however, is the long-term future of third-stringer Kevin Newsome, a once-promising high school recruit thought to be the heir apparent at quarterback. He was leapfrogged on the depth chart, and Newsome has met recently with Paterno about his status. They’re scheduled to talk again next week.

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