After reviewing on film the multitude of mistakes in his team's 24-16 loss to West Virginia. Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne came to the conclusion yesterday that the better team lost.

It was a discovery that was both maddening and encouraging to Claiborne as he began preparations for the Terps' biggest game of the year Saturday at Penn State.

"Talentwise, we're shy in some spots," said Claiborne, "but we're not getting the performance we need from our more talented people.

"We're racking our brains to figure it out. Maybe we've gotten complacent. It's possible we lack a killer instinct.

"We always start the season feeling we can beat anybody." said Claiborne, "and I certainly felt we were capable of beating West Virginia. Looking at the films didn't change my mind.

"One game does not make a season. I've only had one undefeated season in my whole career - those things don't bother me.

"The biggest thing I want is to play to the best of our ability. We didn't do that. THAT'S what upsets me."

Quarterback Larry Dick, who Claiborne said "did some good things and some bad things," agreed.

"We definitely beat ourselves," said Dick. "I don't think we lost to a better team."

Dick second-guessed himself by saying he should have pitched to Steve Atkins on the fourth-down option play late in the game when he kept the ball and was stopped short of the goal.

It was Dick's first starting role since the victorious 1975 Gator Bowl, a spot he won by default because Mark Manges was sidelined last week with a toe problem.

Dick, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 234 yards, said he did't know who would start against Penn State, remarking only of the team. "I think now we'll find out what's inside us."

Claiborne said both quarterbacks would see action against Penn State but was vague about who would start Saturday, saying it depended on Manges' maneuverability.

Asked if Manges would start if he is recovered. Claiborne first said he didn't know, then said Manges would start "only if he's completely healthy," apparently leaving the door open for any decision.

Maryland will be an underdog. "It doesn't take a Phi Beta Kappa to figure that out," said Claiborne. "Penn State (which beat Houston, 31-17, Saturday) is a great football team. We just have to go out and prepare. If our confidence has been shaken, I hope to get it back.

"They have to go out and play better. Missing crucial tackles, not carrying out assignments in our defense, fumbles, dropped passes, throwing to wrong receivers, six turnovers, not playing with intensity - that's my fault."

At Penn State, the Terps probably will be without two second-string offensive players who were injured Saturday. Backup quick guard Paul Glamp may have a broken arm and reserve receiver Jim Hagan left the game on crutches after injuring his right knee.

Hagan was the little-used subvaulted to heroism when he caught the winning touchdown pass against Clemson in the opener. Perhaps it was an unlucky omen to be a hero in that game - Clemson defensive back Rex Varn, who returned an interception 93 yards for a touchdown, was admitted to a hospital three days later to undergo an emergency appendectomy.

Injury problems also nag at Navy as the Mids prepare for one of their biggest games - at Michigan - Saturday.

The total of hobbled defensive ends was raised to three when right end Ed Reid left Saturday's game on a battered right knee. It is unknown if he will be available. Starting left end Jim Degree had knee surgery 11 days ago and Toby Buttle, who plays at either end, is just beginning to come back from a leg injury.

Navy (2-0) posted an expected 38-7 romp over undermanned Connecticut, and is determined to show apponents that - unlike Maryland - the team's killer instinct is intact. To be certain the world noticed this. Members of the Navy's defensive secondary unveiled a new line of football accessories - white towels worn on their belts with the initials C.O.D.

C.O.D.? Children Of Death, of ccourse.

"We wanted to do something that would unify us more," said safety Mike Galpin.

Howard posted an unimpressive 15-0 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore and next visits defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion South Caroline State. Howard is 1-1.

While the Howard defense is satisfactory, the offense is unsettled. Coach Doug Porter used a host of players, including three quarter-backs, and apparently is still not certain of a true starting line up.

"We want to give out younger players experience now," said Porter, "because we don't know for sure what's down the road."