This is the week for the Maryland football team to test its passing game.

Saturday's opponent in Byrd Stadium -- Vanderbilt -- is not likely to provide any kind of test for the Terps. The Commodores were 1-10 last season and are 7-37 the last four years.

What's more, they start four freshmen on their defensive unit, including both safeties and an inside linebacker.

Against Villanova, Maryland quarterback Mike Tice did not throw well off play action, but did throw extremely well on straight drop-back passes. Against a weak, inexperienced defense, Tice could have a field day, picking apart the Vanderbilt defense -- if Claiborne gives him the chance.

"Don't count on their freshmen to make mistakes," Claiborne said yesterday when the question of throwing to the first year players was raised. "Last year UCLA had a freshman safety who made all-America."

What Claiborne didn't mention was that even all-Americas are tested by opponents in their first games as starters. Pushed on the subject, Claiborne finally conceded, "We'll try to find out what kind of players they are."

"I hope we do throw," Tice said. "The more we work on throwing the ball, the better we're going to be at it."

Vanderbilt's offense moved the ball last year, gaining 340 yards per game. But the Commodores were anything but sticky fingered, committing 44 turnovers, an average of four a game.

The defense was, in a word, awful, allowing 418 points -- 38 a game. The offense averaged 16 points a game.

Naturally, Claiborne tried to make Vanderbilt sound like Alabama. A comment on the Vanderbilt defense -- "They've had a great recruiting year; really done a good job building up that unit."

On the pounding Charlie Wysocki will take if he continues to carry 36 times a game: "The football's not very heavy."

On what the Terps must do to improve their passing attack: "Practice makes perfect."

Wingback Jan Carinci, who has had no contact work since injuring a knee in early August, scrimmaged for the first time Sunday and should play against Vanderbilt. . . . Defensive guard Marlin Van Horn, who aggrevated a sprained ankle Saturday, did not practice yesterday and is questionable for Vanderbilt. . . . Defensive guard Mike Corvino was named ACC defensive lineman of the week. . . . Claiborne was so disgusted with the kicking game Saturday (two missed field goals and blocked punt) that he practiced the kicking units in full gear Sunday. "Usually, we give an award to the best performer on our kicking unit," Claiborne said. "But we were so terrible Saturday we didn't even give one."