Scores

Final

FIU 0

(0-1, 0-1 away)

(17) Penn State 59

(1-0, 1-0 home)

12:07 PM ET, September 1, 2007

Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

1 2 3 4 T
FIU 0 0 0 00
#17PSU 14 10 28 759

Top Performers

Passing: A. Morelli (PSU) - 295 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: A. Scott (PSU) - 11 CAR, 46 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Norwood (PSU) - 5 REC, 92 YDS

In JoePa's return, Penn State blanks FIU in opener

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Anxious and feisty, Joe Paterno paced up and down the Penn State sideline while his defense swarmed all over the field.

Things are back to normal in Happy Valley.

Linebacker Sean Lee had a sack and one of Penn State's five forced fumbles, and Anthony Morelli threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 295 yards as the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions welcomed JoePa back to the sidelines with a 59-0 rout Saturday of Florida International.

Wearing his trademark black sneakers and rolled-up khakis, the 80-year-old Paterno jogged out of the tunnel to lead his team on the field with his face plastered on the giant stadium video screens.

The 107,000-plus packed into Beaver Stadium cheered on his first appearance on the sidelines since breaking his left leg last November at Wisconsin.

"It felt like your dad was gone," receiver Derrick Williams said about Paterno's absence. "It showed today how important it is he's on the sideline."

Paterno hoped offseason rehabilitation and long walks during his annual vacation at the beach would get him ready to return to the sideline for Saturday. He said he wasn't sure until several weeks ago that he was going to be able to run on to the field.

"I felt good about my ability. I got tired ... but I'll get stronger as I go along," Paterno said. "That felt good to be able to do that whole thing."

The defense made Paterno smile, too, helping to give JoePa a win in his record-breaking 42nd season as head coach.

Penn State outgained Florida International 549-114. The defense had seven sacks and flustered FIU quarterback Wayne Younger, a redshirt freshman making his first career start. An overwhelming edge in talent helped Penn State overcome any mysteries with FIU's new spread offense.

"We saw a lot of different tapes, we saw a lot of different looks, so really that's a credit to the coaches," Lee said. "Athletically, we might have been a little better, and that made up for some mismatches."

With Penn State leading 7-0, linebacker Dan Connor recovered a fumble by FIU's John Ellis on the Golden Panther 20, six-plus minutes into the first quarter.

Three plays later, Morelli found Mickey Shuler wide open down the right sideline. The sophomore barreled over safety Cory Fleming before tiptoeing into the end zone, pushing the lead to 14-0 lead.

The win improved Paterno to 35-7 in season openers and early in the fourth quarter, with the final outcome pretty much set, fans yelled "Joe Paterno!"

"He looks pretty healthy," new FIU coach Mario Cristobal said about Paterno. "He looks like he might be able to play if he had to."

After getting walloped at Wisconsin last year, Paterno's career appeared it might be in jeopardy. He spent the next week at home while recovering from surgery, missing a game for the first time since 1977.

Paterno watched the final two contests of the 2006 campaign from the press box, and had insisted since then he would return to the sideline.

He kept his promise. At one point Saturday, Paterno, with arms flailing, got into the face of one official after disagreeing about a fumble lost by Penn State's Rodney Kinlaw.

There wasn't much else to make Paterno angry.

His special teams forced several fumbles on returns and continually pinned FIU deep in its own territory numerous times.

Morelli finished 23-of-38 passing on the day. He had 231 yards alone in the first half, breaking the school record for first-half passing yardage previously held by Mike McQueary, who had 219 against Wisconsin in 1997.

FIU hasn't won since the final game of 2005, going 0-12 last season. Cristobal installed a new spread offense in hopes of improving on last season's measly 9.6 points per game.

No such luck.

Penn State's Jared Odrick thwarted FIU's best chance to score when he tipped away Dustin Rivest's 29-yard field-goal attempt to help Penn State enter halftime leading 24-0. Younger finished 12-of-25 for 117 yards.

"This is a lesson learned because Penn State was a great team, and they did everything they were supposed to," FIU cornerback Lionell Singleton said. "We just got to learn from our mistakes."

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