Maryland's defense was so overwhelming from sideline to sideline, from start to finish, that it didn't even matter that the offense was hiding for three quarters yesterday.

The Terps held 18th-ranked Kentucky to 42 yards on 36 rushes (1.2 yards a carry) and the offense, behind Steve Atkins, broke open the game with 13 fourth-quarter points for a 20-3 win, halting the Wildcats' unbeaten streak at 11 games.

The Terps, 13th- and 15th-ranked in the latest wire service polls, ran their record to 4-0 with their eighth consecutive victory over a two-year span, displayed on a sunny day for 42,873 fans and 2,127 empty seats in Byrd Stadium.

The Wildcats battled for just three first downs and 56 yards in the second half, which began with Maryland clinging to a 7-3 lead.

The advantage seemed particularly thin in the fourth quarter, because the score had not changed and two long Terrapin drives had been halted at the one-yard line with no points to show for them.

Maryland was unable to breathe easily until Ed Loncar's two field goals fattened the lead to 13-3, then the sighs turned to cheers when running back Don Dotter took a handoff and threw a three-yard option pass to second-string tight end Tom Burgess for the latter's first college touchdown.

Atkins, the workhorse tailback, had his fourth straight 100-yard game, rushing for 153 yards on 31 carries. He scored Maryland's first (and winning) touchdown in the second period on a bullish 16-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

All Kentucky came up with was Tommy Griggs' 24-yard field goal, made possible after Terp punt returner Steve Trimble called for a fair catch at the Maryland 10 and let the ball drop through his arms like a slam dunk through a hoop that the Wildcats recovered.

Kentucky crossed, midfield only twice after that, never getting closer to the end zone than the Maryland 35, where Charlie Johnson sacked quarterback Mike Deaton for a loss of 12 yards.

"The defense was superb," said Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne. "With all the adversity, getting stopped twice on the four-inch line, and then coming back (to score), we're just happy to win.

"I don't know who played well, but we had to be doing something right. We tackled strong and had a good pass rush."

Kentucky Coach Fran Curci, whose team is 1-1-1, complained about the officiating.

"It was the worst-officiated game I have ever seen," said Curci, "but that did not beat us. The officials let the game get out of control."

"What?" said Claiborne. "What is he talking about?"

Curci didn't elaborate but the lone penalty for rough play was a face mask infraction called on Kentucky.

Curci did ofter that "our tackling was poor (and) whipped us at the line of scrimmage. They met us on both sides of the line.

"When you throw a ball, a lot of things can happen. Deaton didn't have a chance."

Deaton was 10 of 20 for 105 yards, but the Wildcats were continually struggling and Deaton was sacked four times for losses of 29 yards.

It was not the best performance of the year for Maryland quarterback Tim O'Hare, either. He was intercepted for the first time this year and was one of the people stopped for no gain trying to put the ball in the end zone from the one.

But O'Hare did complete 10 of 17 passes for 157 yards, including six to split end Dean Richards for 102 yards.

"O'Hare didn't play as well as he has been, but he still came up with some big plays," said Claiborne. "The worst thing about the game is we are still not getting the ball in the end zone when we are close."

After a scoreless first quarter in which Kentucky agonized with the football for 8 minutes 57 seconds, Maryland marched 84 yards to the one-yard line. There Atkins two dives over the pack were sabotaged by linebacker Jim Kovach and defensive halfback Venus Meaux. Claiborne had criticized himself earlier in the week for thinking field goal instead of touchdown, so the decision to run on fourth and one was not surprising.

It still was early in the second quarter when that drive expired, but Kentucky, in five possessions before the half, came up with only one first down, that on a holding penalty on the return of a Kentucky punt.

O'Hare's interception throw interrupted the next Maryland drive, but Kentucky punted the ball back after its customary three plays for two yards.

Maryland then marched 61 yards in eight plays to the touchdown, which came on the 16-yard run by Atkins, bouncing like a pinball off Kentucky defenders. The Terps had to overcome a 15-yard penalty and travel 47 yards in the air in the drive to put themselves up, 7-0, with 3:13 left in the half.

Maryland resuscitated Kentucky's next drive by holding on a punt return, giving the Wildcats the ball back and a first down at the Kentucky 43.

But the Wildcats again ran the customary three plays and punted, only to have Trimble fumble the fair catch and give the ball back again, to Chuck Smith, recovering at the Maryland 10.

Three plays later Kentucky had gained only three yards, so Griggs was called on for his 24-yard field goal, drawing Kentucky to 7-3. Twenty-two seconds later, when the half ended, Maryland seemed lucky to be ahead.

In the third quarter, only Maryland came close to scoring, this time scurrying 71 yards into the arms of Kovach at the one-yard line.

Again the Terps had to overcome a chunky penalty (this one 17 yards for clipping), but a pass interference call on Kentucky defensive back Larry Carter, for bumping Richards, gave the Terps a first and goal at the three.

Atkins swept right and went down head first close enough to the end zone that many people believed he had scored. From inches away, Kovach stopped Atkins over the middle for no gain.

O'Hare was stopped by Kovach on a no-gain quarterback sneak; Kovach then waved at the Terp offense, as if to say, "C'mon over."

Atkins dove off tackle, but was stopped again. By Kovach, of course.

The magnificent goal-line stands were a thin silver lining on an otherwise cloudy day for Kentucky.

The call sent in on fourth and one instructed Atkins to run wide, but the Maryland tailback apparently felt that would be admitting a small measure of defeat, so he dove over the middle, anyway.

"I know I should have gone to the outside," said Atkins, "but I just tried to dive over, and I couldn't make it."

Before Kentucky could manage another first down in the game, Maryland's Loncar kicked field goals of 49 and 31 yards, capping drives of 69 and 54 yards, for a 13-3 lead with 6:42 left in the game.

Johnson stopped Kentucky's last two drives with sacks while Maryland increased its lead to 20-3 on an unusual 52-yard drive.

A penalty on Kentucky for too many men on the field during a Maryland punt gave the Terps a first down at Kentucky's 37. From there O'Hare hit Richards on the dead run at the left sideline for a 34-yard gain to the three.

Two plays later, Dotter took a handoff from O'Hare in the full-house backfield, ran toward the left sideline and chucked a pass to Burgess for a touchdown.