CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Paul Jones not only has been passed on the quarterback depth chart by true freshman Steven Bench, he's also going to be tried out at a new position - the "F" tight end spot.
Jones is in his third year in the program but has made so little progress that he's been supplanted by a newcomer in Bench who only arrived on campus in June. Coach Bill O'Brien believes the 6-foot-3, 258-pounder can help the team as a flex tight end.
"He's going to be fine at that spot," starting tight end Kyle Carter said. "Big guy, he can run and he can catch. He's a real athletic guy. That's like a perfect spot for him. I'm trying to help him as much as I can.
"If he has any trouble with routes or anything, I've just been teaching how to run routes. ... He pretty much knows everything because he's a quarterback, so he knows what we have to run. I'm just telling him how we do it."
Jones did not play Saturday and still has yet to appear in a game during his PSU career. He redshirted in 2010 and sat out last season because of academics. He will continue to practice and quarterback in case something happens to Matt McGloin and/or Bench.
When McGloin suffered an elbow injury Saturday, Bench got an opportunity and held his own. He was only 2-of-7 for 12 yards - one possible long TD was dropped by Allen Robinson in the end zone - but he also carried three times for 18 yards.
"I thought he did some good things, especially at the end of the first half," O'Brien said of Bench. "He's never really ever run a two-minute drive before - he's done a couple in practice - and overall I think he did a heck of a job."
Bench started the first half and played two plays before getting replaced on third down by McGloin.
Robinson misses TD grab
Robinson caught 10 passes for 89 yards, but he couldn't come up with a big one at the end of the first half. Bench scrambled to his right from the Virginia 35 and fired a pass to the end zone that Robinson, who was covered but had position, got his hands on and couldn't pull in. That would have given the Lions a 14-3 lead.
"I should have made that catch," Robinson said. "It was a good thrown ball by our quarterback Steven Bench, and I think I should have made that catch."
RB Day injured; Dukes gets a shot
Bill Belton (ankle) did not make the trip, so Derek Day got his first start and gained 47 yards on 18 carries. He suffered a left shoulder injury, however, and said he's not sure how much time he will have to miss.
"It felt good to be out there," Day said. "I felt like I ran hard at least."
Curtis Dukes carried 10 times for 30 yards. He still has parts of the offense to pick up but will get some opportunities.
"He's just been working hard, working real hard running the ball and getting the offense down," Day said of Dukes.
True freshman Akeel Lynch did not play and appears headed for a redshirt, as long as he's not needed at some point because of injuries to others.
O'Brien not afraid to gamble
Penn State converted two fourth-and-1s on the opening drive of the game - from its own 45 and on Virginia's 45. The Lions later pulled off a fake punt on fourth-and-3 from their own 42, with up man Glenn Carson taking a direct snap and going for 19 yards, although that drive ended when Bench was sacked on fourth-and-4 from the Cavaliers' 33.
Strong visiting support
Penn State left feeling the strong support from its share of fans at Scott Stadium.
Of the 56,087 listed, there were significant blocks of blue and white. Fans made their presence felt throughout the game, even chanting "Dooks" when running back Dukes carried the ball.
O'Brien said he was disappointed "we couldn't have gotten them a victory."
"It's a great fan base, and we're very appreciative of all those people being here," he said.
If some were concerned of a hostile reception awaiting the Lions on their first road trip since an offseason filled with the turmoil of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it wasn't apparent.
"This is a classy place, a tremendous university with a great head coach in Mike London, great fans and a great student body," O'Brien said. "People were very supportive."
There was a large contingent of Penn State fans at the team hotel on Friday night, and O'Brien felt the logistics of the first trip went well - other than the outcome.
"It was definitely good to be on the road and have your 70 guys and your support staff and your inner circle," he said. "We've just got to find a way to get a win."
McGloin felt badly that the Lions couldn't get O'Brien his first W.
"It kills you inside," he said. "We want to get it for him. The guy's doing everything he can for us."
Fellow senior leader Michael Mauti said, "It's really for everybody. He wants it as bad as we do."
Officially speaking ...
O'Brien didn't dwell on the matter in his post-game press conference, but he was annoyed with the clock operation a couple of different times.
He said five or six seconds were removed in the fourth quarter, but he was more perplexed that, "twice when the penalty was being explained to me in the first half, the play clock was running. I'm not sure how that works." Penn State had to burn timeouts in those situations and had none left to stop the clock and try a long field goal at the end of the half.
O'Brien tried to move on from the subject, saying, "I'm just a rookie head coach. You'll have to ask someone else."
For the game, however, Penn State was penalized just three times for 24 yards, while Virginia was flagged 10 times for 70 yards. The game was officiated by a Big Ten crew. When Virginia visits Beaver Stadium next year, the officials will be from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Penn State's 68-player travel roster included nine true freshmen and 11 redshirt freshmen. The true freshmen: CB Da'Quan Davis, LB Nyeem Wartman, QB Steven Bench, S Jordan Lucas, WR Eugene Lewis, TE Jesse James, WR Trevor Williams, RB Akeel Lynch, DT Austin Johnson. The redshirt freshmen: DE Deion Barnes, P Matt Marcincin, RB Deron Thompson, LB Ben Kline, OL Anthony Alosi, OL Angelo Mangiro, OT Donovan Smith, OT Kevin Blanchard, WR Matt Zanellato, TE Kyle Carter, DE Anthony Zettel.
News and notes
PSU's game captains were FB Michael Zordich, LB Gerald Hodges and LB Michael Mauti. ... Pete Massaro started at defensive end for PSU, replacing Deion Barnes. Massaro had to come out of the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury late in the first quarter before returning in the third quarter. ... Adrian Amos and Alex Kenney were back deep returning kickoffs. ... Evan Lewis and Jesse Della Valle were back deep on punt returns.