A 22-year-old University of Maryland student suffered a severe head injury in a fight outside the Rendezvous Inn in College Park and was in a coma last night at Prince George's Hospital Center, Prince George's County police said.

Todd John Stush fell, hitting his head on a concrete curb outside the popular college gathering place after struggling with another patron early Thursday, police said. After the two men began fighting, police said, the restaurant's bouncer became involved and Stush fell. Witnesses who refused to be identified said when Stush's head hit the pavement there was "a sound that echoed off buildings."

Stush, who had recently begun taking karate classes, is "not the kind of guy who would start a fight," said Eric Tupler, 20, who roomed with Stush at Phi Delta Theta fraternity last year. "He takes karate for self-defense but he doesn't get into fights."

Tupler, who was not with Stush when he was injured, said Stush had been at the bar earlier in the evening with four fraternity brothers. The group was involved in a minor altercation with some other young men and was asked to leave, Tupler said.

According to fraternity members, Stush returned to the bar with a girlfriend about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

Two doormen -- who asked not to be identified -- from the Santa Fe Restaurant where Stush worked during the summer as a waiter, said they saw a man pushing Stush out the door and saw him fall to the ground. The man landed on top of Stush's chest, they said, but did not hit him after he fell, they said. The Santa Fe Restaurant is about 100 yards from the Rendezvous.

Prince George's County homicide detectives declined to discuss the case further.

Yesterday afternoon, as the restaurant filled with college-age patrons who refused to discuss the Thursday morning incident, manager Tony Stein said he was instructed by the bar's attorney, Alan J. Goldstein, not to discuss the matter. Goldstein did not return a reporter's phone call.