Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/30/11

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 1: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions leaves the field following the 2010 Capital One Bowl against the LSU Tigers at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. Penn State won 19-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DALLAS Through all the recent turmoil at Penn State, including the firing of his famous father, the previous four weeks have been the toughest for Jay Paterno. The time between the final regular season game on Nov. 26 and the Nittany Lions' arrival in Dallas for the Ticket City Bowl have been the quietest, and the most anxious, for the son of Joe Paterno. "During the regular season, you had a game the next week. You didn't have a lot of time to think about some of the things that were going on," said the younger Paterno, who is Penn State's quarterbacks coach. "Once the regular season got over, that Sunday, I felt like a zombie for a couple of days." Joe Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after 46 seasons at Penn State in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Since the firing, the elder Paterno has been diagnosed with lung cancer and suffered a fractured pelvis in a fall at his home. Yet Jay Paterno said his father's spirits are high. The family celebrated his 85th birthday together Dec. 21, a few days before the team flew to Dallas. "He's doing well," Jay Paterno said. "For his birthday, we had all the grandkids, all 17 of them were there. It was fun for a while, then it got to be a little hectic. Then I think he just said, "OK, I've had enough." Which is what he always does." The younger Paterno said he gets updates on his father's health from his mother, Sue. Although chemotherapy treatments leave him tired, Jay Paterno said his father has maintained a positive attitude. "He's a fighter," Jay Paterno said. "You guys who have covered himyou know what his character is. He fights. He never gets down. It's about the next challenge, and this is another challenge for him." Joe Paterno hasn't spoken publicly since his firing, which came hours after he announced he would retire at the end of the season. Paterno has been accused of not doing enough to stop Sandusky when he had knowledge of an incident years ago. Sandusky has been charged with 50 criminal counts of sexual abuse and child endangerment. While his father's career was ended by the scandal, Jay Paterno's coaching future remains in limbo. He wouldn't confirm or deny interviewing for the head coaching position at Penn State. Given the way his father was forced out, Jay Paterno was asked if it would be difficult for his family to remain in State College, Pa. "I think once everything comes out and everybody sees everything that's happened, I don't think it will be tough," Paterno said. "I think people will realize, without getting into any specifics, Joe conducted himself in a way that is consistent with his character and I think we'll see that, eventually." Jay Paterno was less sure about whether his father would ever attend another Penn State game, but doesn't believe there is any bitterness. "Again, you'd have to ask him. But Joe never sits around and complains about what's happened to him," Jay Paterno said. "Joe's one of those guys who looks at the bright side of everything." It's a trait that has obviously been handed down to his son. Jay Paterno joked freely with reporters Friday, even when one of the first questions was whether this would be his last game as a coach. "Hey, I've thought about every game being my last game," Paterno crackd. "Every time you lose a game you come home and you say, Man, I should get out of this racket.' Who knows? It may not be up to me." Paterno said he is considering options outside of coaching, but when asked for specifics, he again relied on humor. "Let's just say I'm not going to run for attorney general any time soon," Paterno said. Paterno's demeanor shifted when talking about how Penn State's players have handled being at the center of a controversy that has shaken one of the pillars of college football. "They've always carried themselves with a lot of class and dignity. They continue to do well in the classroom and all that stuff despite the fact that everybody's throwing stones at them for things they had nothing to do with," Paterno said. "Even on the night that Joe came in and met with the team and told them he was going to retire, it was really an unbelievable moment. The players, guys were crying. Then when it all changed that night and they came out the next day for practice, they all kind of had that attitude that this is what we do. We're Penn State. And if we've learned anything from Joe, it's that we've got to keep going." With a bowl game against Houston looming, Penn State's players are now being hit with questions about the coaching search. "It's really been like a whirlwind around here," receiver Justin Brown said. "But we're just trying to stay focused and play football. We'll let the administrative staff handle all that and we're just going to try to come out here and win a game." Even with a game to occupy his thoughts again, Jay Paterno admits it's strange to be on a bowl trip without his father around. "Really strange. I'm not going to tell you differently," Paterno said solemnly, before cracking another smile. "Usually if my wife and I want to go out to dinner, we take the kids and dump them off on my parents, so that's been a major drawback. Maybe the biggest." Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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