STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Heeding his doctor’s advice, injured Penn State coach Joe Paterno will not be in the stadium Saturday when the Nittany Lions play Temple – missing his first game since 1977.

Paterno had surgery Sunday to repair a fractured shinbone and two torn knee ligaments in his left leg. The 79-year-old coach was sent tumbling along the sideline last Saturday by two players in the second half of Penn State’s loss to Wisconsin.

Paterno had missed only one game in his 41-year head-coaching career – after his son, David, was involved in an accident. He also missed one game as an assistant in 1955 after his father died.

Paterno talked to his assistants Thursday morning during a meeting in his Mount Nittany Medical Center hospital room.

“You guys know what you’re doing and what I want enough that I don’t need to be there creating a huge distraction Saturday,” he told them, according to a team statement. “Enough on me; let’s get back to football.”

Team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli advised the feisty Paterno that coaching Saturday might jeopardize his recovery. Paterno remained in good condition Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Karstetter said.

“He just realized he’s got to be proactive in this condition,” said Guido D’Elia, a team spokesman.

A decision on whether he will coach in Penn State’s regular-season finale against Michigan State on Nov. 18 will be made next week.

“It’s in his best interest not to be on the field really for the rest of the season,” Sebastianelli said Wednesday at a news conference.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and offensive coordinator Galen Hall will oversee their respective units. But Bradley, a Penn State assistant for 28 years, was assigned to make the tough calls on both sides of the ball.

“If a game decision needs to made beyond that, talk it out and if you can’t agree, Tom will be the tiebreaker, because he has been around the longest,” Paterno said.

Paterno’s 41 years as head coach at Penn State ties him with Amos Alonzo Stagg for most seasons leading one school. Stagg coached at the University of Chicago from 1892-32.

Paterno turns 80 next month. His 360 career wins are second among major college coaches to the 364 of Florida State’s Bobby Bowden.

Doctors have said Paterno could be allowed to return to the sideline for a bowl game as long as he stayed off his feet.

Paterno is under contract for another two years. His son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, has said his father has every intention of returning in 2007.

AP-ES-11-09-06 1603EST

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