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September 1, 2007? Box Score
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State welcomed Joe Paterno back to the sidelines with a suffocating show of defense.
Linebacker Sean Lee led the furious defense Saturday with seven tackles, a forced fumble and a sack, and Anthony Morelli threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 295 yards as the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions routed Florida International, 59-0.
It was a happy homecoming for the 80-year-old Paterno in his first appearance on the sidelines since breaking his left leg last year at Wisconsin.
Wearing his trademark black sneakers and rolled-up khakis, 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 sold-out Beaver Stadium cheered them on.
Lee, fellow linebacker Dan Connor and the rest of the defense then made sure Paterno got a win in the opener of his record-breaking 42nd season as head coach. Turnovers and excellent special teams often gave the offense good field position.
With Penn State leading 7-0, 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 for a touchdown that helped give the Nittany Lions a 14-0 lead.
"Joe Paterno!" yelled fans early in the fourth quarter, with Penn State up a 59-0 and second-stringers on the field. Paterno improved to 35-7 in season openers in his career.
For more coverage of the Penn State Nittany Lions, check out BlueWhiteIllistrated.com.
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