Remember June? College Football was still a couple of months away, USC/Ohio State was still considered a pretty even matchup, Rich Rodriguez was undefeated at Michigan...it was such an innocent time.
Ohio State was the clearly the talk of the Midwest, but Joe Paterno was close behind. Was it time for him to hang it up, to turn over the program to his son?
Many Big Ten fans thought so. They thought so five years ago, but they let him hang around to pass Bear Bryant.
After JoePa started trading the all-time wins record with Bobby Bowden, it became clear to many that Bowden would simply outlast Paterno. How could they show him, one of the best coaches of all time, the door? This was the way things were supposed to happen...if Monty Python had its way:
College Football World: Bring out yer dead.
Big Ten Fans: Here's one. (Brings out Joe Paterno)
College Football World: That'll be ninepence.
JoePa: I'm not dead.
College Football World: What?
Big Ten Fans: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
JoePa: I'm not dead.
College Football World: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Big Ten Fans: Yes he is.
JoePa: I'm not.
College Football World: He isn't.
Big Ten Fans: Well, he will be soon, he's very old.
JoePa: I'm getting better. We’ve been workin' on this HD thing...
Big Ten Fans: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment…and that offense won’t work.
College Football World: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
JoePa: I don't want to go.
Big Ten Fans: Oh, don't be such a baby.
College Football World: I can't take him.
JoePa: I feel fine.
Big Ten Fans: Oh, do me a favor.
College Football World: I can't.
Big Ten Fans: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
College Football World: I promised I'd be at the Bowden's. Florida State went 7-6 last year.
Big Ten Fans: Well, when's your next round?
College Football World: January.
JoePa: I think I'll go for a walk.
Big Ten Fans: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?
JoePa: I feel happy. I feel happy.
[College Football World glances up and down the street furtively, then silences JoePa with his a whack of his club]
Big Ten Fans: Ah, thank you very much.
College Football World: Not a problem at all. See you in January.
Big Ten Fans: Sounds good. We’ll have a guy named Ferentz.
So...what happened? Well, for starters, JoePa was dead on. That "HD thing," Penn State's Spread HD offense, has worked wonders in Penn State's first four games. Penn State is 4-0, in the Top 15, averaging over 500 yards and 50 points per game.
The critics have changed their tune (though questions still exist about the coaching staff's handling of off-the-field issues), and Paterno is no longer overstaying his welcome...for now.
Things could change in upcoming weeks as the Big Ten season starts, but for now JoePa is sitting pretty on top of Happy Valley.
A bum leg forced him to watch the second half of Penn State's demolition of Temple from the press box, yet another reminder that while Paterno may still have the will to coach, his body may ultimately make him lay down his cards.
But for now, Paterno wants to remind us all that he's not dead yet.