"It's like a shock. It really is," said Maryland kicker Mike Sochko.

"It seems like the whole world is falling in," said tailback Steve Atkins.

"I don't like it," said receiver Vince Kinney. And Mike Yeates summed it up: "It hurts."

The feisty Maryland team that battled to prove itself to its doubters by winning 11 regular-season games last year has lost three of its first four and understandably turned quiet.

"When I'm losing I don't like to talk about nothing," said defensive lineman Bruce Palmer. "Especially the team."

The Terrapins, who take on Syracuse at Byrd Stadium Saturday, all agree that the team is depressed, that it needs a win badly to bolster its spirits.

Many spoke of the need to come together, play together, but it is a team with no apparent dissension.

It is a team that wants badly to win, thinks it should win, but speaks of a lack of intensity.

Perhaps Chuck White described it best: "We're a mystery team."

One player said, "After the Penn State game I think the guys down inside felt our season was shot. It was letdown. Some sugs might no really care if we win, just worry about personal glory. That may be it It may not."

Other players said it wasn't so, White said the practices last week were the best of the year.

"I don't know what's going on," said White. "Last year there was really never a doubt in our minds. The one thing we talked about was going 11-0. Now we're thinking, 'Are we going to win'?

"We just have to make up our minse to do it; we have to have some leadership from somewhere. I think we're going to have to get almost a totally new attitude, start from scratch and forget those last four games. We have quite a few seniors, you're tearing your heart out. There's no way we've given up."

"I know we haven't given up," said tight end Eric Seivers. "If you could see coach (Jerry) Claiborne after a loss - it's like there are almost tears in his eyes and it just makes me want to do anything I can to win."

Sochko worries about the team's motivation and about preoccupation with the past.

"Last year we were a lot more motivated because we ghought we should go 11-0. I'd thought we'd be 4-0 now, said Sachko. "Maybe we figured after 11-0, what's left?

"We can't live on last year's memories, and that's what the team's been doing. We have to find something to be motivated for. We have to talk about it. I went up and talked to the coach last week about the attitude of the team. There ain't no love for each other.

"After 11-0, even one loss is a letdown. We have to find out if we want to win or if we want to keep on losing. We're down on ourselves, down on each other and down on the coaches. But I don't think the coaches are down on us."

Sochko is the first to point out that he doesn't necessarily speak for the team. "Remember," he said, "you're talking to a kicker."

Yeates said, "The coaches sometimes think we have a motivation problem. Everyone is tired of losing and everyone has made up their mind to do something about it. There is a letdown, but now we have to rise to the occasion. We're down, of course . . . Our confidence, our pride have been given a little spot.

"When you lose, people may look for scapegoats. But we've got to play more as a team and not worry about individual glory. I feel we're a close team. Maybe there's something missing. I'm not sure what it is."

"Maybe we're a little discouraged," said linebacker Neal Olkewiez, "but I don't think we feel like a 1-3 team. We feel we're better than that and we'll come back. I think everyone on the team is pretty much together now because everyone else is starting to cut us down. Everyone has had a part in at least one of the losses, so no one can really get down on anyone else.

"It's hard to get used to after last year, when all the breaks went our way. I don't think all the losses were because of letdowns from last year. I think West Virginia was our only letdown."

The West Virginia loss was the first and perhaps the most surprising. And it came right before the biggest game of the year - Penn State.

"The West Virginia loss was enough to blow everybody's mind," said Atkins. I've been wondering what's going on. We just have to fight our way out of it."

Kinney said the season is still enjoyable in certain respects.

"To me it's fun because there's more competition, everybody is out to knock us off," said Kinney. "I get motivated pretty easily.

"Hopefully, our personal pride will be what motivates us - all of us have it, and it should make us bounce back.

"This has made me wonder how teams that lose all the time keep going. We've just lost three. Now I know how they feel, and I don't like it."

Linebacker Brad Carr and right halfback Chris Ward, both starters, were held out of practice yesterday with injuries and their status for Saturday's game is uncertain. Carr has a sprained ankle and Ward has a shoulder injury. The Terps have moved in place of injured Jonathan Claiborne to right defensive back and are working Ralph Lary, a first-year player, at the first-string safety spot Clarborne was back at practice but was held out of contact.