UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Maryland coach Joe Krivak had a quaint way of putting it. He said the last two games against No. 18 Penn State and No. 8 Virginia were "a great opportunity" for the Terps.
This was early last week when Maryland was faced with th prospect of having to beat one of its two remaining opponents for its first winning season since Bobby Ross' 1985 team went 9-3.
"Playing our last two against nationally ranked teams -- that's great opportunity," Krivak had said.
Only half of that great opportunity remains. After stretching thei winless streak against Penn State to 26 games with a 24-10 defeat Saturday, the Terps (5-5) will travel to Virginia this week for their season finale.
The Cavaliers (8-1) rebounded from their loss to Georgia Tec with a 24-10 conquest of North Carolina. The Terps bowed to North Carolina, 34-10, two weeks ago in what was probably their worst effort of the year.
"Georgia Tech showed that Virginia could be beaten," sai Maryland quarterback Scott Zolak. "Maybe we'll catch them a little down."
Since two season-opening defeats, Penn State has won seve PTC straight. There were bowl scouts on hand Saturday and, though the Lions doubtless will receive a bid, they dare not let it be a distraction now.
They will travel to No. 1 Notre Dame Saturday, then conclude th regular season against Pitt. The Lions last beat Notre Dame in 1987, then lost twice in the interim.
"I haven't seen a lot of Notre Dame this year," said Penn Stat coach Joe Paterno. "I saw the last quarter against Michigan State, and that may be the only time I've seen them except looking at the late night sports.
"They had some shots of Raghib 'Rocket' Ismail running bac something. That's the highlight show every week with him. So I know he's still there."
The Rocket, who had accumulated more than 200 all-purpos yards in each of his previous four games, was held to 131 in Saturday's 34-29 triumph over Tennessee. However, he returned punt 38 yards to set up a field goal and raced 44 for Notre Dame's final touchdown.
"I don't know if we're physically capable of matching Notr Dame," Paterno said. "They're by far the fastest team we'll play.
"We've tried to recruit some of their kids and haven't had muc luck. They've cleaned everybody's clock in recruiting even longer than Lou Holtz has been there. They may be one grade higher, talent-wise, than anyone in the country."
Maryland, in keeping with its custom against Penn State, gav the Lions too many chances for big plays. A Zolak pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Mike Hopson's fumble while returning a punt led to a Penn State field goal. And the Lions completed several long passes, one on fourth-and-21 for a score.
"I've been coaching against these guys for a lot of years," Kriva said. "You just can't give them the opportunities that we gave them.
"The same old mistakes, and they nail you for them. We've got t get over that hump."
Zolak, in perhaps his worst performance, completed 14 of 3 passes for a season-low 130 yards. At one point, he missed 11 in a row. His completion percentage was 38, compared with his 55 figure coming in.
Krivak correctly noted that Zolak was sometimes under a heav rush. But even when he had time, Zolak's throws were frequently off target when he had men open.
"There's nothing wrong with this offense," Zolak said gamely "We just need to start getting the kind of breaks Penn State got."