COLLEGE PARK -- Joe Krivak was trotting off the field toward the Maryland locker room in high glee when he heard a familiar voice calling to him from above.
Krivak looked up in the stands and saw Sandra Welsh, wife of Virginia coach George Welsh.
"We saved your butt," she shouted. "Make 'em give you five more years."
Krivak waved and smiled in acknowledgment. The Welshes and Krivaks are old friends, dating to 1977-81 when Krivak was an assistant on Welsh's staff at Navy.
Being old friends is one thing, but Sandra Welsh was taking it a step further. After Krivak's Terps upset her husband's Cavaliers, 35-30, in the regular-season finale last fall, she made it clear that she hoped the stunning victory would prolong Krivak's coaching life at Maryland.
Make 'em give you five more years.
Krivak got four more. And now, as he prepares for opening day under his new contract, Krivak will have the pleasure of playing Virginia again, Saturday (noon) in partially renovated Byrd Stadium.
Krivak now admits that the stunning victory over then-No. 8 Virginia probably saved his job. Had the Terps not won the game, it would have marked his fourth straight losing season. As it was, the Terps wound up 6-5 and went to the Independence Bowl.
"People were ready to fire my butt," Krivak said. "It's probably true that win saved my job. Otherwise, it probably would have been sayonara."
As critical as that game turned out to be, Krivak cautions against attaching too much significance to Saturday's rematch. He snorts at the suggestion that a defeat would cripple Maryland's Atlantic Coast Conference championship aspirations.
"How can one game be make-or-break?" Krivak said. "A team could win the conference championship with two losses. No game on the schedule is make-or-break."
* FRESH LOOK: Krivak is keeping a close eye on two hotshot freshmen running backs from the Baltimore area, Larry Washington of Randallstown and Raphael Wall of Wilde Lake, in an attempt to determine if one or both should be redshirted.
"Larry will get every opportunity to play this year," Krivak said. "Wall has a few nicks [knee and ankle], so we'll wait and see. He's missed a lot of practice time."
* ON WAY BACK: Junior Dave deBruin, who came into practice as the No. 1 left guard, may be able to play in the opener even though he is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago. Kevin Arline probably will start in his place.
"deBruin is day to day," Krivak said. "The scope left a few holes in his knee and he's missed so much time."
* DEFINITE MAYBE: The No. 1 tight end, junior Brett Stevenson, is questionable, also because of recent knee surgery. Another junior, Joe Cooper, is his backup.
* GRADUATE PROGRAM: Kevin Pompey, a defensive back last year, recently completed credits for his degree, making him the 15th graduate among the 18 seniors on the 1990 team.
"That ain't bad," Krivak said. "I'm hoping a few more will return in January and finish."
* TERPS VS. NAVY? At least once a year, whether Navy wants it to or not, the subject of a renewal of the Terps-Middies football rivalry pops up. The rivalry was cut off after 1965, following an incident during which a Maryland player made an obscene gesture to the Navy crowd.
"We've talked and talked to Navy," Krivak said. "We'd play them in a parking lot. It's a natural rivalry. They usually play two or three ACC teams, anyway [including Virginia and Wake Forest this year]."
Said Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel: "Joe and I have talked, but we're already scheduled through 2000. Our objective now is to return the program to its successful tradition in football."
Navy people have long felt they have enough emotional games against tough opponents. The Middies recently dropped Pitt and Syracuse for that very reason, which is why there are Bowling Greens and Ball States on the schedule this year.