STATE COLLEGE -- It was a day for the pain-free coach to talk about his future -- and for everyone to keep talking about the quarterback who suddenly left the team.

Of course, Penn State's bowl media day also was a time for the players to continue letting their intriguing, even exotic, holiday destination sink in a little more.

Many of these Nittany Lions will be experiencing the West Coast for the first time when they travel to the Los Angeles area to prepare for the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

The first topic of the Friday's session, though, was Pat Devlin -- the talented sophomore quarterback who decided this week to transfer out of Penn State in order to find more playing time elsewhere.

Daryll Clark, the starting quarterback who led this Big Ten title run, was one of the first peppered with questions about Devlin.

He supported Devlin's right to find a better fit but also made one thing perfectly clear:

"I wouldn't transfer," Clark said about being put in the same situation. "Because I made the decision to come here and even though things didn't go my way you still got to ride it out.

"I chose to come here, and regardless of what happens, (even if) things don't go my way, I'm not going to get upset. Obviously, you're frustrated if you're not playing but just make the best out of the one year that you have."

Clark and his teammates said they heard rumors recently but still were surprised when getting the official word of the defection.


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Clark said he had not spoken to Devlin since, but "we've been pretty cool for the duration of the season."

When Joe Paterno got his chance behind the podium (walking and standing without a cane after hip surgery), he told the story of how Devlin and his parents paid him an in-home visit on Monday to discuss the situation.

"When it was obvious to me that he was going to leave I said, 'Wouldn't you like to go out to the Rose Bowl?' which I probably should not have said. And he said, 'Well, it's up to you coach.'

"Then, when I thought about it, I thought it might be a distraction."

So now Penn State must go with seldom-used senior Paul Cianciolo as the backup and freshman walk-on Matt McGloin as the third-stringer to play against USC.

"I don't want to sit and judge what Pat and his family want to do," Paterno said. "I've got kids of my own and there were tough decisions we had to make with them from time to time. Pat's probably been thinking about it for a while. The timing is maybe not the best as far as we're concerned but it may be the best for him."

Expect do-everything receiver Derrick Williams to take at least a handful of shotgun snaps behind center, too, as a threat to run or throw.

As for Paterno, Friday was his first time meeting the media since his hip replacement surgery a few weeks ago. He seemed more comfortable walking than he did throughout the entire fall.

He said he only uses a cane when he's been on his feet for long stretches, but he won't make a decision about being on the sideline for the Rose Bowl until arriving in California and going through a few practices.

"I think I'm fine, I just have to keep testing myself a little more every day."

A bit later he said, "I feel great, I really do. Now that I can wake up in the morning, and I don't have to worry ... It's tough when you're in pain all day, and sometimes you get to the point where you wonder whether it's worth it."

But now, "There's no reason for me not to think I can't (keep coaching) for a while. How long is a while? I don't know."

So there will be a rejuvenated, 82-year-old Paterno leading his team against the nation's top defense -- hoping that USC doesn't take out his quarterback.

But there are other things to consider, as well. Like how this also will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many of his players.

The glitz of Hollywood and LA to go with warm, sunny weather.

"Beachy, shorts and sandals," Williams said, smiling, when asked of his impressions of Southern California. "Like a different world.

One with a huge game waiting to be played.

One that's only a couple weeks away.

fbodani@ydr.com; 771-2104.