CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Alex Kenney has found a place in Penn States offense.
The former State College High School graduate had his best collegiate game Saturday against Virginia, catching three passes for 50 yards in the 17-16 loss. His haul included 24-and 23-yard receptions in the Nittany Lions first second-half drive.
I feel like Im making progress, Kenney said.
For the first time in his career, Kenney, a third-year sophomore, has settled at one position. He shifted from wide receiver to defensive back multiple times the past two years. Coach Bill OBrien and assistant head coach Stan Hixon, who works with the wide receivers, moved Kenney to offense before spring drills.
The move appears permanent. Kenney, a slot receiver, has caught five passes in the Nittany Lions first two games.
I just try to do whatever Im taught in practice, he said. Coach Hixon is doing a great job. And if I get the ball, Im just going to try to make a play.
Kenneys special teams role is also expanding. Kenney and sophomore Adrian Amos served as Saturdays kick returners. Kenney didnt receive a chance to return a kick as Virginias Ian Frye
knocked three of his four kickoffs into the end zone.
It would be nice if I could return one, Kenney said. I thought Adrian was making smart decisions. The guy was kicking it halfway in the end zone. Hopefully next week we will get an opportunity to return one.
Evan Lewis and Jesse Della Valle served as Saturdays punt returners.
Sophomore Allen Robinson led the Nittany Lions with 10 catches and 89 receiving yards.
Dukes receives work
Penn States biggest and most experienced runner returned to the backfield Saturday.
Junior Curtis Dukes, who missed spring drills for academic reasons, gained 30 yards on 10 carries. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Dukes only played special teams in last weekends loss to Ohio University.
Dukes was one of four running backs to receive work against Virginia. Derek Day led the Nittany Lions with 47 yards on 18 carries before suffering a shoulder injury. Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak combined for seven yards on five carries.
Penn State attempted 42 running plays, 20 more than it did against Ohio.
We tried to run the ball more than we did last week and obviously we did, O'Brien said. Some was good, some was bad. Dukes ran hard and took care of the ball. I thought Derek Day ran hard, I thought Zwinak ran hard. Those guys played very, very hard today.
Linebacker Glenn Carson gained 19 yards on a fake punt.
The Motown music group The Temptations performed with the Virginia band at halftime. Penn States Blue Band didnt make the trip. ... Virginias Jake Snyder received a personal foul penalty for playing after losing his helmet in the first quarter. The helmet rule was adopted by the NCAA this season. ... Zordich, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges served as Penn States captains.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter@cdtguy.