What we do on offense, how much we gamble," Penn State Coach Joe Paterno is fond of saying.-depends on our defense and the kicking game. Those are our first two priorities."

And the priorities within that defensive priority are two tackles called Salt and Pepper. Matt Millen and Bruce Clark, who arrived here three years ago expecting to major in linebacker.

With 10 alumni in the National Football League, linebacker is the glamor position here - and Paterno attracts such as Millen and Clark the way John Wooden attracted basketball centers to UCLA and Einstein attracted thinkers to Princeton.

Most students switch majors in college, especially in football. But neither Millen nor Clark was enthusiastic about changing from linebacker to tackle before last season - until they realized fine players become noticed no matter where they play.

"They're incredible players," said Syracuse coach Frank Maloney "You have to be flawless against them - and even then it's not enough."

That was in reference to what they did against Maloney's team two weeks ago. Millen forced one fumble and recovered one fumble and blocked a field-goal try.

They will be Maryland's main concern here Saturday.

"I can't imagine any team having two better down linemen," Paterno said. "They both have good size and strength and they can run."

After their senior years in big school. Miller and Clark met during a practice for an all-star game. In truth, they introduced one another with their fists. Once at State, they become best of friends.

"We don't worry about playing in each other's shadow, Clark jokes, "because I cast a darker shadow." He is black. But salt, Millen, is more outgoing on the field.

Another tradition under Paterno is lack of flair on the field. There are no end-zone theatrics after touchdowns, Paterno having adopted the Paul Brown motion that a player ought to act as though he's been there before.

There also was little emotion after an important defensive play - until Millen.

"At first, I kept it down," he said of his jumping and fist - slapping routine. "Penn State, you know, the reputation. Finally, I asked (Assistant Coach Jim) O'Hora and (Assistant Coach J.T.) White and they said. "Be yourself."

"Every play is a little war and I like that."

Both players have impressive individual numbers. But Paterno realizes their most important contribution is drawing the sort of double-team attention that makes others on the defense even better.

End Larry Kubin has eight quarterback traps, or two more than either Millen or Clark who have six each. Pressure from the line has helped force 13 interceptions in eight games, and scads of hurried incompletions.