STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Friends since third grade, Penn State cornerbacks Justin King and Lydell Sargeant have turned Beaver Stadium into their own 110,000-seat playground.
Opposing receivers aren't feeling very welcome.
When offenses get stopped by the Nittany Lions' rush defense (minus-1.5 yards a game), they turn to the passing game. In No. 12 Penn State's season-opening wins over lowly Florida International and struggling Notre Dame, the pass rush has been strong, helping the quick secondary shut down receivers.
It could well be a long afternoon Saturday for Buffalo (1-1) when it visits Beaver Stadium.
``We're just playing smart, playing as a whole unit, not as individuals,'' King said.
King, a junior, arrived at Penn State two seasons ago as one of the jewels of coach Joe Paterno's 2005 recruiting class and became a mainstay at cornerback in 2006.
Timed in high school at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash, King's play is already attracting the attention of NFL draft analysts.
Sargeant and King grew up together in suburban Pittsburgh, basketball teammates and buddies until their freshman year at Gateway High School in Monroeville.
That's when Sargeant's father, who is in the Air Force, was transferred to California. Sargeant starred as a running back in Lompoc, Calif., but each summer would spend a couple weeks back in Monroeville with King and other old friends.
When King announced he was attending Penn State, it didn't take much persuading for Sargeant to follow.
``It's kind of a storybook tale. We've played with each other since the third grade,'' Sargeant said. ``It's kind of like a dream, an honor.''
But Sargeant's route to the starting lineup this season was more arduous than King's.
He was switched to receiver when he arrived in Happy Valley, though he didn't get much playing time. The winter of his freshman year, he got homesick and ill, losing more than 10 pounds, he said.
He was shifted again his sophomore season, this time to defensive back. He was a backup on defense, and played on special teams.
Finally, an opportunity emerged in the spring when last year's starting cornerback, Tony Davis, was moved to safety, though Sargeant faced stiff competition from highly touted speedster A.J. Wallace.
Then off-field woes put Sargeant's playing future in jeopardy.
He and King were initially charged by State College police for their involvement in an off-campus fight in April; prosecutors eventually withdrew charges against King, and a judge dismissed charges against Sargeant.
The university still disciplined four players, including Sargeant. The four were expelled for the second summer session but allowed to take part in preseason practice. They also had to undergo counseling and were placed on school probation.
The highly publicized fight drew anger from Paterno and pleas from the coach for the rest of the team to stay out of trouble.
So JoePa was unhappy when he heard last month that 18-year-old sophomore tight end Andrew Quarless was cited by Penn State police for underage drinking. Paterno suspended Quarless, though the coach said he may finally play this week.
``Every person has to go through a trial that makes you a more mature person,'' Sargeant said when asked about Quarless. Sargeant had emerged from the same doghouse during preseason to beat out Wallace for the starting cornerback job.
King is especially glad his buddy was able to seize an opportunity in a secondary that now boasts four juniors.
``We go out there having fun,'' King said. ``The communication back there is a lot better, so we're a lot more comfortable.''
Quarterbacks wary of King's abilities might be more apt to test Sargeant instead. Bring 'em on, Sargeant insisted.
``I enjoy that,'' he said. ``Getting the ball thrown to my side gives me a chance to prove myself.''
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