STATE COLLEGE -- It began, Paul Jones said, with a joke.
"We were watching Patriots film and (tight end) Aaron Hernandez caught a lot of balls that game," Jones said of a video session with coach Bill O'Brien two days after the Nittany Lions dropped their opener to Ohio. "And I said, ‘Coach, that's me.'
"Just joking around. Then we had a talk and he said, ‘Well, you should try.' "
So it was that Jones, once one of the nation's highest-rated quarterback recruits out of high school, found himself lining up as a receiver for the first play of his college career.
"I didn't want to (switch) for about an hour," Jones said. "I talked to (O'Brien) some more, then I said I'd do it."
It was the third game of his third season on campus when the Pittsburgh-area native finally got in a game for the Lions, split out to the right of Matt McGloin, the man who beat him out for the starting job in the spring.
Since then, Jones fell to third-string behind true freshman Steven Bench, forcing O'Brien to find a different way to get him on the field.
He got his first touch in the second quarter, snagging a 7-yard pass from McGloin to pick up a first down. It was his lone catch of the day.
"It felt real good," Jones said. "As the ball was coming to me, I kind of got nervous because it was coming right at me. Then after I caught it, my body just went numb and I stopped thinking. I just reacted."
Jones opened warmups by taking practice snaps as the third-team quarterback. By the time position drills began, he worked out with the wide receivers.
Though O'Brien said Jones is working as an F-tight end -- a versatile, line-up-anywhere position, it's safe to say the Lions won't be counting on him to do much blocking.
But O'Brien would like to find more ways to get him the ball.
"Yeah, we will get him more involved," O'Brien said. "He's a great kid. I was glad to see him catch that ball. That was good, and a good start for him. We've got to keep building that package with him."
For the second straight week, Penn State played without starting tailback Bill Belton, who suffered an ankle injury in the second half of the opener against Ohio.
This time, top backup Derek Day was also unavailable after hurting his shoulder last week against Virginia.
Curtis Dukes got the start at tailback, but it was fullback Michael Zordich -- often lined up as the lone man in the backfield -- who led the team in rushing. Zordich finished with career highs in carries (11) and yards (50).
"Michael and I have had a lot of conversations about his role on the football team," O'Brien said. "He's always reminded me, ‘I used to run the ball in high school, Coach. I used to run the ball.' It's like (listening to) Ferris Bueller's teacher, it's over and over.
"He's a great kid, and with the injuries there, we felt that he was a guy that we wanted to get on the field a little more. I thought he did well for the most part. He's got to get his pads down at times, but for the most part he did a good job."
O'Brien did not sound optimistic about Belton's and Day's chances to play next week against Temple, saying he'd see how they were feeling on Monday.
One player who should be back to face the Owls is left tackle Donovan Smith, who missed the Navy game with an ankle injury.
Senior Mike Farrell shifted from right tackle to the left side with junior Adam Gress coming into play the right side. West Scranton's Eric Shrive, a guard for much of his career, saw significant snaps at right tackle.
Defensive end Pete Massaro (shoulder) and linebacker Nyeem Wartman of Valley View (knee) also did not suit up for the game.
Kicking woes continue
Some of the loudest cheers from the crowd on the day actually came in warmups.
Besieged kicker Sam Ficken returned home after a nightmare of a performance last week against Virginia in which he missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked.
Students showed up with signs to support him against Navy and roared in approval when the sophomore hit a pair of 35-yarders -- one from each hashmark -- during pregame.
After connecting on the extra point on each of Penn State's first two touchdowns, however, Ficken pushed his third PAT try wide right during the second quarter.
On the Lions' next drive, Penn State drove to the Navy 8-yard line. But on fourth down, O'Brien opted to go for it rather than try to boost Ficken's confidence with a 25-yard attempt.
The pass was incomplete and the Lions came away with nothing.
"I felt good about the play call. It had nothing to do with Sam Ficken," O'Brien said. "I just felt good about the play call that I had at that point. Obviously, it didn't work out. We blew the protection on that. I wouldn't take that call back."