Unbeaten, second-ranked Penn State has given up just 56 yards rushing a game, and if Maryland is going to pull an upset Saturday and take a shot at a national college football title, it will to travel through the unfriendly skies of State College, Pa.

Captain of this flight is Tim O'Hare, the Terrapin quarterback who must try to pass well enough to earn a championship watch before he gets his first varsity letter.

"If Timmy isn't getting the job done, we might look for another spark," said quarterback coach Jerry Eisaman, referring to sophomore Mike Tice, the backup quarterback. "I'm not scared to stick Tice in at any time.

"But this is Timmy's baby.

"I think he's looking forward to it, to going against (Penn State quarterback) Chuck Fusina. And one thing I know about Timmy - he hasn't let anybody down yet."

Last year, the Terps rushed for only 57 yards against Penn State and now they face the possibility of trying to establish a running game without starting fullback Mickey Dudish and with a slightly slowed-down Steve Atkins at tailback.

Atkins is having his best year and needs 45 yards for his first 1,000-yard season. But in the last three games, Atkins has carried the ball 81 times for 280 yards, for an acceptable but unspectacular average of 3.5 yards a carry.

Elsewhere aroung the offense, the blocking and pass protection broke down in spots against, Duke and sporadic mistakes by individuals have dotted the offensive firlms of the nation's fifth-ranked team.

Lack of concentration, which several players credited to the looking-ahead blahs, resulted in seven penalties against Duke, and the Terps have not completed a scoring march of more than 55 yards in more than two games.

"We've had the opportunities to score 46 points in every ball game, but didn't take advantage of them, because of mistakes," said Eisaman."But the thing I like about his team is how it played catch-up all night at Louisville, how it doesn't give up. They've had chances to quit and they won't. They seem like they've done just what they needed to do and let the rest slip away, while they were looking ahead to Penn State.

"Now the stands are going to be on national TV, and they can do what they've been thinking about for two weeks."

Skeptics still question whether O'Hare is up to the task of dissecting Penn State's dizzying defenses, but his supporters point to his 8-0 mark. The combined talents of present pro quarterbacks Mark Manges and larry Dick had the Terps at 4-4 this time last year.

Not enough talent on offense?

Eisaman disagrees.

"This is the first year that we've had people who are evenly matched with their people," said Eisaman. "Our offensive line is capable of blocking their defensive line. I think they just weren't mentally prepared against Duke, and this game will be a personal challenge for our offensive line.

"We can't say. 'Well, we're going to ram it down their throats und march on the ground and score in our first three series.' But I don't think we'll have to play over our head to win either.

"If I thought we had to have a perfect game to win, that we couldn't have one interception or one fumble, I'd say so. If we play our game, we will be all right.

"The thing we want to do is make sure we have a sound game plan, and not run a bad play. Tim has this load on his shoulders, to read the defenses and make sure that we don't throw a pass into coverage or try to run a play where we're not going to have enough blockers.

"Timmy has automaticked (changed the play at the line) in some key situations where we had some bad plays called from the bench. If he plays his usual game, he'll be all right.

"Tim's success has come from his ability to turn a missed block into a big play. He's overcome a lot of short-comings."

Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne was particulary upset with the offsides penalties against Duke, which he said were due to lapses in concentration or communication. Besides that, films showed that the linemen were leaning upwards on a pass play, downward on a run, tipping the defense.

"Those are mental mistakes and they upset me, because it makes me feel like I'm not doing a good job as a coach," said Claiborne. "I didn't fell like we were accomplishing some of the things we believe in.

"When we have been on long (offensive) marches, we've missed blocks, dropped passes, overthrown receivers and run wrong routes. "It's important against Penn State to control the football, and not have your drives stoped by mistakes like these."

Claiborne has been pleasantly suprised by O'Hare and fells he is prepared.

"What we have to do to Timmy is get him in trouble," said Claiborne. "He seems to make his best plays when he's running around."

Claiborne was mostly joking about that but he was not amused to learn that Penn State's secondary has intercepted 18 passes. Claiborne would rather not have to depend too heavily on the pass, even though that appears inevitable.

"One of the reasons no one has beaten Penn State is because the opponents had to rely completely on their passing game," said Claiborne. "We'll have to be able to run some, to control the football, because if you give the ball to Penn State, they'll explode."

Players and coaches alike have come to the conclusion that Maryland had not reached its peak offensively but will have to find a way to do it to beat Penn State.

"We've won all our games so far, but we haven't played to our potential," said tight end Eric Sievers. "We have to put it all together against Penn State. It can't be 10 or nine guys putting out.

"Tim had handled pressure ever since last season ended. "He's a little like Billy Kilmer. He may not throw the prettiest passes, but they get there, and that's all we need. Tim just needs to do the same job he's done all year.

"Tim has handled pressure ever does everybody else. We definitely could have scored twice as many points as we have - it's just a case of every guy going out and doing his best."

Eisaman described Penn State's defense as "adjustable, able to make changes and put pressure where you're hurting them." The offense that beats Penn State will have to be just as adjustable and O'Hare undoubtedly will be throwing to everyone who's illegible.