While there was satisfaction, there was no rest. Paterno returned to Happy Valley yesterday and turned his focus to recruiting. He also needs to find leaders to replace those leaving in what he considered an outstanding senior class.
Oh, by the way, he needs to find a quarterback to replace the departing Daryll Clark, who finished his career with seven school records and a 22-4 mark as a starter.
All indications have been that freshman Kevin Newsome, who played in 10 games but took most of his snaps in a mop-up role, would be Clark's heir apparent. But Paterno said there would be competition for the job.
"I was disappointed that we didn't have an opportunity during the year to play a couple of kids a little bit more," he said. "We never got in a game where I felt comfortable that we could give a kid like Kevin or the walk-on from Scranton [No. 3 quarterback Matthew McGloin] some time.
"But that's not a done deal - who's going to be the leading candidate. I don't know. Nobody's had enough work for me to tell you I know enough about it."
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Newsome rushed 20 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns and completed 8 of 11 passes for 66 yards. McGloin, a redshirt freshman who is now on scholarship, saw very little action.
Paterno said he wasn't down on Newsome; it was just a case of not knowing a lot about him.
"I haven't seen him in a tough football game where he's got to handle the whole football team," the coach said. "But I'm not disappointed in anybody. I like our squad. I like him. I just don't know enough about some of our kids."
Paterno said he wanted to take a look at freshman Curtis Drake, the former West Catholic High quarterback who played wide receiver this season, and Brett Brackett, who was recruited as a quarterback but has played wide receiver.
The Lions also have commitments from two high school quarterbacks - Paul Jones of Sto-Rox High School near Pittsburgh and Robert Bolden of Orchard Lake, Mich. Jones is expected to be one of seven freshmen who will enter Penn State later this month.
Paterno said he felt fine physically, but he described the season as tiring. The Nittany Lions played their first 12 games without a bye. A week of final exams interrupted their preparation for the Capital One Bowl, and the snowstorm that crippled the Northeast two weeks ago kept some of his players from reporting for the start of Florida practice in Daytona Beach.
Paterno just completed the first year of a three-year contract he signed after last season. The Nittany Lions were successful on the field despite home losses to two ranked opponents - Iowa and Ohio State.
Though Paterno will come back next year, his close friend Bobby Bowden will not. The Florida State coach completed his distinguished career Friday with a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia.
"The way I understand it, Bobby was not exactly ready to go," Paterno said. "But I guess they felt maybe it was time to go, because they hired a guy [Jimbo Fisher] to be his heir apparent. I don't know."
Paterno said a succession plan "was not the way to do it."
"It's hard for me to sit here and tell you that I know what's best for Florida State and some of the other schools," he said. "But I don't want to get into it."
Paterno has not shown the smallest sign he has grown tired of coaching. The topic of his future came up when he talked about keeping his staff intact for next season.
"Everybody keeps asking me, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?" he said. "That's got to affect your assistant coaches and their families. I've tried to make sure they don't have to worry about anything."
So, what is he going to do?
"Well, I'm going to go buy a newspaper," he replied with a laugh.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.