Nancy Ware, Duke freshman, was standing at the bus stop, a yellow freshman ribbon -- a tradition in the 1950s -- dancing in her blond hair, when the short, stocky, broad-shouldered type strolled up and announced confidently, "Hi there, I'm Bob Pascal."

"Hi, I'm Nancy Ware," she answered casually.

The young man seemed taken aback by her indifference.

"Don't you know who I am?" he asked, his voice filled with disbelief. "Don't you go to any of the football games?"

Nancy Ware was embarrassed. She didn't go to football games, which was why she didn't recognize Duke's star running back, Robert Anthony Pascal, then a Duke junior. But even though she wasn't exactly impressed by his swagger and bluster, she found it difficult not to like the blocky kid who thought everyone on campus knew him. When he asked her for a date, she said yes. Two years later, when he asked her to marry him, she said yes again.

Twenty-five years later, Bob Pascal's biggest problem in his underdog race for governor of Maryland is similar to that one he faced at that bus stop in Durham, N.C. As Anne Arundel County executive the last eight years, he has been a man of influence and power in his little world, which extends beyond the county line into metropolitan Baltimore, where he is a close friend of Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

But just as Pascal, the onetime Democrat who is now the Republican nominee for governor, didn't know that there were those at Duke who did not follow his exploits on the football field, he apparently entered this campaign unaware that there were people in Maryland who had not followed his exploits in the Annapolis area.

Pascal's charm could carry the day with one freshman, even one who went on to become campus queen, but in a state of 4 million people, that isn't enough. The revelation has been a cruel one for Pascal, leaving him frustrated and snappish in the final weeks of the campaign as polls show him trailing Gov. Harry Hughes by a substantial margin.

That hurts Pascal. He knows his campaign has not been what it could have been in terms of fund-raising, organization and effort. Beyond that it bothers him because he is confident that when people meet him, they like him. But with only five days until the election, it is unlikely that Pascal and his macho charm can reach enough voters to pull an upset.

Bob Pascal's friends say he can be short-tempered, cocky, often arrogant. He will scream and call you names one minute, then be conciliatory and apologetic the next. But they say he is also warm and sensitive, the kind of person who will throw his arm around a perfect stranger and ask, "How can I help?"

"He can drive you totally crazy one minute but you love him the next," said Ilene Heaney, who has worked for Pascal in various jobs for 12 years. "He may be the most stubborn human being I've ever met. But he's also one of the most genuine and one of the most caring."

Pascal's temper is legendary. "When he didn't get his way on something he just would fly off the handle totally," said George F. Bachman, who was County Council chairman when Pascal was executive. "Then, a minute later he'd say, 'Okay, let's talk about it."

"My mouth gets me in trouble a lot," Pascal said. "Because I'll say something when I'm angry and forget it five minutes later. The problem is, the other guy doesn't forget."

But despite his tendency, as one friend puts it, "to abuse and embarrass people," Pascal inspires loyalty in those who work for him and does well when he meets people with his slap-'em-on-the-back style.

He is family oriented, devoted to his wife and four daughters. He is also somewhat old-fashioned when it comes to women. Early in the campaign he kept introducing Nancy as his "secret weapon." He stopped that after a woman reporter told him the reference was offensive to many women.

Friends say that while Pascal would like to be governor, he is not obsessed by it, and part of him would be glad to go back to his 300-acre Eastern Shore farm to hunt, fish and play with his grandson.

But Pascal is a competitor. He can't stand losing, and he especially can't stand being told he can't win. The old football player in him can't accept the idea that Harry Hughes--ugh, a baseball player -- may stomp him at the polls Nov. 2.

"When they tell me you can't do it, you can't win, that means charge to me," he said recently. "That means give me the ball and let me run with it. I hate to lose, I mean I hate it."

When he talks about competing, he does so as much with his hands as his mouth. He still looks like the athlete he once was: broad-shouldered, slightly overweight, a slight hobble when he has been on his feet a lot.

And during his 48 years he has not lost or been criticized often.

He grew up in Bloomfield, N.J., the oldest of four children. His father, Anthony, a teacher, was the first member of the family to go to college.

Pascal's grandfather, an Italian immigrant, ran a bakery and the extended family, 15 in all, lived upstairs. There is still a lot of New Jersey in Pascal's voice -- g's are often dropped -- a fact that reporters have pointed out during the campaign, infuriating him. Pascal doesn't like being criticized any more than he likes losing.

Anthony Pascal was teacher, coach and, according to his son, competitor: "Even when he played softball, he was a competitor," Pascal remembered. "He was the kind of guy who, one way or the other, got the job done."

That is a Pascal credo: Get the job done. Don't tell him why something can't be done, and don't bother him with details. "I'm not a big detail guy," he said recently. "I come up with the ideas and leave it to the staff to get the rest done."

He starred in football at Bloomfield High School and chose Duke as his college because he loved the campus and wanted to go to medical school. He was a star at Duke, then a national power, playing in the same backfield with Sonny Jurgensen, who went on to greater fame with the Washington Redskins.

"He took his football very seriously," Jurgensen remembered. "He was one of those guys who worked hard every day. He was a tough player, not afraid of anything. But he liked to party as much as anyone. He also liked to stay up all night and play basketball. He was pretty good. Except he shot too much."

Pascal turned down an offer to play professional football with the Baltimore Colts in favor of one from the Montreal Alouettes because the Colts would not guarantee his contract and the Canadian Football League team would. Pascal's family needed the $12,000 -- "it seemed like all the money in the world back then" -- because his father had died of cancer during his senior year at Duke.

Pascal played in Canada a year, hurt his back and returned to Duke to get his B.A. in economics and to marry Nancy. He then went to work for his father-in-law, who owned several oil heating companies. After three years in Florida and two in Maryland managing United Propane, he bought the company from his father-in-law, who gave him a sweethart deal. Suddenly at 28 he was a company president with a lot of money.

Even with the money, a family and an interest in coaching Little League football, Pascal was restless, "a little bored with what I was doing."

When he heard that Maryland was going to have a convention to draft a new constitution, Pascal got his fellow coaches to put together an organization for him and was elected as a delegate to the convention. It was there that Heaney first met him.

"He was always angry," she said. "He couldn't understand why people couldn't see things his way, right away. When I saw him after it was over I asked him if he learned anything. He said, 'Yeah, I learned never back down to those guys.' "

He also learned that politics could be exhilarating. In 1970 he decided to run for the State Senate, but the Democratic organization in Anne Arundel County wasn't about to embrace an ex-jock political novice. So Pascal switched his registration to Republican and won.

In the legislature he sat next to Newton I. Steers, his running mate this year, and chafed at having to be part of a consensus. After one term he gave up his seat to run for county executive, taking on powerful incumbent Joseph Alton.

The old running back's timing was perfect: Alton was at the time the subject of an investigation that eventually led to his conviction on political corruption charges. Pascal won easily and suddenly he was one of the leading Republicans in the success-starved state party.

"He would probably be just as happy being county executive for another eight years," (the county charter prohibits a third term) said Del. O. James Lighthizer, the Democrat who is expected to replace Pascal next year. "But politics being what they are, he was thrust forward. I'm not sure he was really ready for it."

Both as executive and as gubernatorial candidate, observers found that Pascal's instincts remained those of a Democrat. "He's a better Democrat than Hughes," said one Democrat. "He's certainly more innovative and he's inclined to throw money at problems."

His No. 1 cause as executive has been the senior citizen. The county now spends 10 times as much on senior citizens as it did when he took office, and the county's newest senior citizen center is named for Pascal.

Pascal claims credit for new programs dealing with juvenile delinquents and drug abuse that have cut back on recidivism and reduced juvenile crime by 22 percent -- about twice as large as the drop state-wide.

One of the ways Pascal remained popular in the county was by keeping the tax rate low. In his eight years as executive it increased 50 cents from $1.81 for every $100 of assessed value to $2.31. Critics point out, however, that the rate drifted higher at times, only to come down in 1978, when Pascal stood for reelection and 1982, when he ran for governor.

His biggest headache as executive has been the county's water and sewer system. It was in disastrous shape when he took office and, by Pascal's own admission, will not be much better off when he leaves office.

Pascal's tendency to talk first and seek details later has gotten him into trouble more than once during this year's campaign.

"He wants to get out front, make his attack and worry about what it all means later," said Sen. Edward J. Mason (R-Allegany), outgoing minority leader of the State Senate. "But a lot of times he hasn't done his homework and that's hurt him."

Mason, who had a key role in putting together the compromise gasoline tax that the legislature passed this year, remembers warning Pascal not to jump on that as an issue too quickly.

"I told him the tax was needed and that it was set up in such a way that there were controls on how much it could go up in the future," Mason said. "But he didn't want to hear it. He just gets blinders on with an issue when he's decided he wants to run with it."

Pascals attempt to blame Hughes for increasing the gasoline tax went nowhere. Pascal did little better criticizing Hughes' handling of other issues: car emissions, job retraining, economic development, the bay.

Even Pascal's attempt to attack Hughes' handling of prisons, the one issue where the governor may be most vulnerable, resulted in a clumsily staged press conference at which two relatives of murder victims told horror stories.

What galls many Republicans, even those who are among Pascal's staunchest backers, is that he has refused to listen to anyone's advice and bulled straight ahead with a campaign that has been full of embarrassing moments.

"I've never once gotten a phone call from him," said former U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr., who has run state-wide three times. "I may not have all the right answers but I do have some experience."

But that is not the Pascal way. "If I'm going to lose, at least when it's over I can look back and say I lost, I didn't put myself in the hands of some hokey media guy who tried to make me something I'm not. The day I have to do that is the day the whole thing stops being worthwhile."

Beyond that, though, Pascal admits that at times he is still overwhelmed by being a candidate for governor. He tends to think of himself as, in his words, "the kid from the corner," lucky to be where he is.

That feeling was evident before the only televised debate of the campaign. Instead of thinking issues, Pascal was thinking about where he had come from.

"You know," he said as he waited outside the studio with old friend and aide Walter Chitwood, "I really wish my father could see me now."