Tyoka Jackson is thrilled to have Maryland arrive in Universit Park, Pa., Saturday, and not just because it's a chance to see old friends.
Jackson is a starting defensive tackle for Penn State and the Nittany Lions' most effective pass rusher, with three sacks in three games. Maryland, averaging 50 passes, plays more "shoot" than "run" in its run-and-shoot offense.
On the surface, this would appear to be a match made for Jackson's quick outside bursts from the left side.
"The fact they pass a lot is very pleasing to me," Jackson said. "I'm really going to enjoy this game."
If this is Penn State-Maryland, it's time to remember football roots, old friends and a lopsided rivalry. Jackson, from Forestville, is one of six native Marylanders on the Penn State squad. Two others also start -- tailback Richie Anderson from Sandy Spring and linebacker Brett Wright from Pomfret, although Wright's status this week is uncertain. He was found a NTC week ago to have Bell's palsy, a viral infection that affects the nerves controlling the muscles in the face.
The other Marylanders are cornerback Ricky Rowe of Wilde Lake High in Columbia and nose tackle David Thomas and offensive tackle Wayne Holmes of Silver Spring.
"I know a lot of guys at Maryland, which makes it special for me every time I play them," said Anderson, who was a consensus all-American at Sherwood High in 1988. "That makes it that much more fun to play the game.
"And it's a special game to us, because this is our first really good challenge. I think Maryland will give us a good test."
The 10th-ranked Lions come into Saturday's game with a 3-0 record, though largely untested, and a 33-1-1 lead in the series against Maryland. The Terps are a deceptive 0-3 under new coach Mark Duffner. The difference in the Terps is readily apparent to Anderson.
"What I know of [Duffner], he's very intense, very emotional," Anderson said. "He brought in a whole new era of Maryland football. I know if I was in that situation, it'd be emotional. He came in and changed everything completely. New uniforms, new focus, new attitude, new everything."
Anderson was one of the nation's most highly recruited prospects out of Sandy Spring. He gained 8 yards a carry and 200 yards a game in his senior year, rushing for 2,062. It was the uniqueness of the campus that attracted him to Penn State.
"There is something different about this place than at other places," he said, "whether it's on the field or off the field. That's the sense I had then, that's the sense I have now, four years later. I credit that and Coach [Joe] Paterno as the two reasons I came."
Jackson, who played at Bishop McNamara High, considered Maryland only briefly.
"I realized I wanted to play for a team that would win the national championship," he said. "I didn't think Maryland was going in that direction at the time. Now, I think they are."
Anderson and Jackson, redshirt seniors, blossomed last season, when they became starters. Jackson had 9 1/2 sacks and 11 tackles for losses, and Anderson rushed for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Anderson has established himself in his past seven games at Penn State, during which he has averaged 107 yards rushing. He ran for 96 and two touchdowns in last year's 47-7 rout of Maryland.
"It's opportunity, maturity, just being into the game," Anderson said, accounting for his emergence. "I've been given the responsibility to do it. That's the bottom line."
In less than three seasons, Jackson has collected 16 1/2 sacks and made 17 tackles for losses totaling 100 yards. Paterno has praised Jackson's play, but suggested he would like to see him become "an inside force" against the run.
Neither Anderson nor Jackson is ready to say whether he will return for another year at Penn State. But the Lions' bid for the national title might figure in the decision.
"That's important to us all," Jackson said. "That's what I came to Penn State for. We'd like to get it done."