Navy Coach George Welsh and Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick agreed on one thing yesterday: It took the 16th ranked (UPI) Midshipmen's best performance of the season to get them by the Cavaliers, 17-10, in Annapolis Saturday.

"It was our best game of the year overall, no question about it," said Welsh. "We needed it. Virginia's a good football team, the best we've faced this year. They come at you. We played well to win."

Bestwick said he felt "horrible" 24 hours after the loss. "We thought we should have won the game," he said. "Navy's like us. They're a good football team by not a great football team.

"This is the toughest loss we've had since we got here four years ago," Bestwick added. "It's good that we have this week off, as long as the kids don't sit around and brood about it. We've got to make sure that doesn't happen."

Navy does not have the week off. The Mids travel to play 5-1 Pittsburgh Saturday. They upset Pitt in Annapolis a year ago -- they were also 6-0 going into that game -- and they know Pittsburgh will be trying to make up for that loss.

"I'd certainly like to get some of our injured players back for that game," Welsh said. "We're playing much better football the last two weeks but we're lacking depth because of the injuries."

Most significant of those injuries are the ones that kept tailbacks Mike Sherlock and Steve Callahan out of the Virginia game. Welsh said he did not know yet whether they would be ready to come back against Pitt.

In their absence, sophomore Duane Flowers rushed for 128 yards. "I had been telling Duane the last couple of weeks that I was going to start using him and to stay ready. I'm glad he did," said Welsh.

Navy controlled Virginia backs Tommy Vigorito and Greg Taylor, both of whom had been averaging more that 100 yards a game. Vigorito also had his first fumble of the season.

"That's what hurts," said Bestwick. "There were probably half a dozen plays, maybe less, that if they'd been a little different, we win. Tommy hadn't fumbled all season and he fumbles when we're driving."

Bestwick was particularly upset with a face mask penalty called on his team in the third quarter. The Cavs were leading, 7-3, and had just sacked quarterback Bob Powers for what would have created a third-and-27 situation. Instead it was third and three after the penalty and three plays later Flowers burst 28 yards for a 10-7 Navy lead.

"That play was no more a face mask than six tackles their kids made," Bestwick said. "He brushed his hand across the mask. You should never make a call on a play like that. And if you are going to call the thing, call it both ways."

Virginia, 4-3, has games remaining at Georgia, Virginia Tech at home, North Carolina at home and at Maryland. "They're all like Navy for us," Bestwick said. "We could win any fo the four and we could lose any of the four. I think if we split them -- which would give UVA its second winning season in 29 years -- we'll feel like we've done a pretty good job."

Next year with the nucleus of the team returning; "If we have another good recruiting year and keep our kids believing, we should start seeing some paybacks for our work next season. No question about it."

For Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne, Sunday is becoming a day to try to figure out why his team, once 3-0, can't get the fourth in the win column.

Unfortunately, he said, the answers keep coming up the same. "Missed assignments, doing things wrong technique-wise, busted plays on offense and defense, that's what we keep seeing on the films," Claiborne said yesterday. "We just have to get better concentration out there. The lack of concentration is causing our mistakes."

Because of the plethora of injuries, the Terrapins have been forced to play a number of inexperienced players in recent weeks. Claiborne was asked if the inexperience might be causing the mistakes.

"That's no excuse," he said . . . "This is the seventh week of the season.

We can't be using that as an excuse. We've just got to get better."

Claiborne said he planned no lineup changes for Saturday's game at Duke, meaning he will stick with Bob Milkovich at quarterback and Mike Tice will remain on the bench.

One quarterback Claiborne is glad he won't see again this season is Wake's Jay Venuto, who threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. "He just had a great day, but he's been having great days all season," Claiborne said. "The second half he was 14 for 20 and they had guys catching them on the ground, on their bellies, everywhere. They were amazing at times."

Claiborne was less complimentary when asked about a controversial pass interference call on defensive back Sam Medile that set Wake up at the Maryland six before the Deacons' last touchdown.

"I'm not going to comment on that because I'm not supposed to say things like that in the newspaper," Claiborne said.

Claiborne did not alibi or make excuses for the loss. And, as always, he promised his team would be ready to play next week, even though the Terps' two main goals for the season -- an ACC championship and a bowl bid -- probably were lost Saturday.

Starting linebacker Darnell Dailey, who sprained an ankle Saturday, should be ready in two or three days, Claiborne said. Milkovich, who bruised a knee, should also be back without any problems, he said.

It will be back to basics at Howard this week after the Bison record dropped to 3-4 Saturday, 29-0, at North Carolina A&T.

"We're just going to go out there and scrimmage," Coach Floyd Keith said. "We're going to hit and we're going to knock heads. I've had enough of this psychology stuff, we're just going back and do some more hitting."

While he was unhappy with his team's performance -- the Bison have lost four of the last five -- Keith gave credit to North Carolina A&T.

"They came out the first half and really got after us," he said. "They got us out of the contest early.If we had played the whole game like we did the second half it might have been different. But we didn't. They earned it."