At the imploring of the students sitting in the front rows, Penn State president Graham Spanier did his own part in honoring absent head coach Joe Paterno before kickoff of the Nittany Lions' game with Temple at Beaver Stadium Saturday.
He rolled up his pants legs in trademark Paterno fashion.
Others in the rain-soaked Beaver Stadium crowd of 105,950 had signs urging a speedy recovery or bandages secured to their left knees. Before the team took the field, a brief video of Paterno was shown on the stadium screens. And at the end of the contest, senior tackle Levi Brown cradled the game ball, which he and fellow captain Paul Posluszny were going to drop off at Paterno's house later that night.
Though the 79-year-old Paterno couldn't be on the sideline -- the first time he's missed a game in 29 years -- his presence was remembered in Penn State's dominating 47-0 win over Temple. The victory was fueled by a strong rushing attack and a stalwart defensive effort.
Paterno, who spoke to the team via speakerphone before the game from his home in State College, broke his shinbone and tore two ligaments in his left knee last week in a collision at the Wisconsin game. So he watched the Temple game at home and Penn State was coached by committee.
It was really different down there not having him because you're just so used to seeing him there, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. It wasn't right without him being there.
After a crazy week where Paterno's situation was the focus, Tony Hunt, steady and strong, took center stage Saturday The senior tailback thundered over the Owls for 167 rushing yards on 16 carries and four total touchdowns, the yardage and TD totals both career highs.
Hunt attacked the left side most of the afternoon and, keeping his feet moving and balanced underneath his body, was able to bust through initial contact.
Tony Hunt's a big play-maker, sophomore receiver Derrick Williams said. He just gives a different dimension to a running back. He can catch, he can block, he can run. With my own eyes, he's the best running back I've seen.
Following the lead of Brown, the tackle who was called on to pave a path, Hunt enjoyed success early on. He rushed for 60 yards in the first quarter and had 149 at the half, well above his season average coming into the game (93.1 yards).
I was pretty much just blocking the guy, giving [Hunt] some room so he can get through there, Brown said. Tony doesn't need that much room to get in there; but when you give him enough, he'll do what he has to do.
Hunt slid through the Temple defense for the game's first points, a 22-yard touchdown on which he found a hole widened by Brown.
Later in the opening quarter, Hunt broke through the left side and, fighting off defenders, barreled 26 yards and outstretched his body into the end zone. He scored again with about 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
Hunt scored a fourth time in the third quarter on an 11-yard screen from junior quarterback Anthony Morelli, who was 12-for-22 with 159 yards and one touchdown. With about six minutes remaining in the period, Hunt and the rest of the first-stringers were replaced by backups.
Throughout the game, Morelli and the Nittany Lions were helped by an undisciplined Temple team, which had eight penalties. Penn State took those opportunities to make the now 1-10 Owls pay, including a 75-yard Williams punt return touchdown in the first quarter. Temple's punting unit was flagged for an illegal formation and forced to re-punt, giving the sophomore the opportunity to capitalize.
And on defense, Penn State held Temple to 74 total yards and two first downs — the lowest totals since Paterno took over as head coach in 1966 — and earned its second shutout of the year. On the season, PSU has given up an average of 194.5 yards per game.
We can look at this game, learn from it, offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. I'm very pleased with the way we competed. I think we need our confidence lifted, I think we'll have it after this week. And hopefully we'll build on it for the next game against Michigan State.
Now 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten, the Lions close the regular season at home against the Spartans next Saturday. There is no word on whether Paterno will be far along enough in his recovery to attend that game.
But everyone in the Nittany Lion camp — from the school president on down — knows the coach will at the very least be there in spirit.
This is the game ball for Coach Paterno, Brown said after the Temple win, clutching a beaten up Nike football in his hands. Wherever he's at, I'm going to take it to him.