Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday that four dropped passes by Terrapin receivers in Saturday's 14-11 win over West Virginia ruined an otherwise vastly improved passing attack.

"The mechanics of our offensive unit in passing situations Saturday were a big improvement over what we've been seeing," Claiborne said after studying films of the Terps' third straight victory.

"If it wasn't for those four dropped passes (three in a row at one point) we could call the passing performance outstanding. We also need a little bit better protection for (quarterback Mike) Tice in some long-yardage passing situations."

Claiborne also added that his offensive line, throught to be a team strength during the preseason, will need an impressive week of practice to iron out some new-found weaknesses before Saturday's crucial contest with Atlantic Coast Conference favorite North Carolina.

While the Terps returned from Morgantown with their most satisfying triumph of the season, other area colleges had differing results.

Howard needed a length-of-the-field, 16-play drive and a Howard Ward field goal with no time remaining to tie strong Bethune-Cookman, 13-13, in the home opener at Howard Stadium. The Bison trailed, 10-0, at halftime.

The Bison needed 16 fourth-quarter points to come from behind and win, 19-6 against West Virginia State two weeks ago. The two Bison games could be called "A Tale of Two Halves." Coach Floyd Keith's team has been lethargic and unable to complete its offensive drives in the first half. But it comes out swarming in the second half.

"I may have to turn into Dr. Jekyll before the game next week (against South Carolina State) and cook up something to make us play in the first half like we have in the second half," Keith said "We've just got to get tougher in the first two quarters."

A bright spot for the Bison has been tailback Greg Banes, who has rushed for 210 yards in the two games this season. A staunch Wildcat defense forced Banes to alter his slashing, darting, finesse style and adopt a power style.

"I told him at halftime to cut out some of the juking and jiving and lower the shoulder to deal out some punishment, said Ken Mack, running back coach and a firm believer in north to south running.

Navy Coach George Welsh expressed disappointment yesterday with his team's passing game, even though quarterback Fred Reitzel completed six of nine passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in Navy's 31-3 drubbing of Kent State Saturday.

"After watching the films today I could tell that our offense has improved substantially from the preseason, especially the blocking of the linemen," Welsh said.

"But we're still dropping far too many passes and overall the offensive unit didn't play that well. Kent State isn't the best team we are going to play this year either. Our offense is still in the catch-up stage. We rarely got to practice the same units two days in a row until recently."

Lack of a consistent running game was just one of a myriad of problems for the University of Virginia, which lost, 27-13, to North Carolina State Saturday in Charlottesville.

"We just couldn't make the big play when they were there to be made," said Cavalier Coach Dick Bestwick. "A lot of the little mistakes on offense came when we really had a chance to move the ball.

"We were like an eight-cylinder car running on only seven cylinders," he added. "Basically, we're still two to three plays on each side of the ball away from beating really good football teams."

Virginia was touted by many observers as a prospective bowl team, but Beatwick says his squad will be hard pressed to win three of its first four games. To make matters worse, receiver Greg Taylor is still suffering from a preseason hamstring injury and will not be ready for the Duke contest next week. "We really need him," said Bestwick.

On the national scene, Notre Dame kicker Harry Oliver's 51-yard field goal on the final play gave the Irish an emotional 29-27 win over startled Michigan.

Top 20 teams Ohio State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Alabama all won easily. But sixth-ranked Stanford, perhaps the most overrated team in the nation, was bombed by Boston College, 30-13. In late-night games Saturday, Southern California held off Heisman Trophy candidate George Rogers and South Carolina, 23-13 and ninth-ranked Florida State demolished East Carolina, 63-7.