It is the year after at Wake Forest.

One year ago, the Demon Deacons truly were America's Team, college division.After spending most of the 1970s as America's patsy, Wake arose, smiting Georgia, North Carolina, Auburn and Maryland.They played in the Tangerine Bowl and had an 8-4 record.

The sudden turnabout brought the world to Coach John Mackvoc's door. "If a coach had to deal with all those phone calls and interviews every year it would be impossible," Mackovic said yesterday. "It was fun, though. I enjoyed it. This year, however, we're not the story we were last year."

But now, Wake is a football team. That is a major improvement over the last years prior to 1979, when Wake was a joke. The Deacons, who play Maryland Saturday in Byrd Stadium, are 3-2. Two years ago, 3-2 at Wake Forest would have been the stuff miracles are made of. Now, any talk of miracles is passe.

"It is different this year," Mackvic said. "Last year a lot of teams weren't looking for us to be a good team when we played them. Now, they respect us and are waiting for us. That probably makes it a little bit harder for us." Maryland fits that description. A year ago, try as he might, Coach Jerry Claiborne had a difficult time getting his team up for the Deacons. In his first seven years as Maryland coach, Claiborne watched his teams stomp Wake, shutting them out five times.

Not last year. Last year, Wake won, 25-17

"We know they have a good football team," Claiborne said. "You can tell that looking at them on film. It doesn't take a genius to recognize a good football player."

The best of the Deacons are quarterback Jay Venuto, last year's ACC player of the year, and wide receiver Wayne Baumgardner. Because he tore defenses to shreds a year ago, Baumgardener, who caught 61 passes for 1,128 yards, now receives double coverage from the time he steps off the bus until the time he steps into the shower after a game. As a result, Venuto has gone more to Kenny Duckett (22 catches, six touchdowns) and his running backs. Baumgardner has 12 receptions.

Defensively, nose guard James Parker, last season's anchor, is gone, but linebacker Carlos Bradley and the nucleus of a strong front line have returned. Wake, younger this year than last, can play football.

Mackovic, the man primarily responsible for the turnabout, played quarterback for Wake in 1964. At 36 he is considered one of the bright young coaches in the country. His name is linked with other schools when a vacancy occurs. "I really don't want to talk about coaching vacancies or anything like that at this stage of the season," Mackovic said.

That in itself is an answer; sooner or later, someone at a bigger, more monified school than Wake is going to knock on Mackovic's door and he is going to have to answer.

Right now, however, Mackovic is concerned with putting Wake's program on solid footing. He has no desire to see the 1979 season go down as Wake in Wonderland. This winter will be his fourth recruiting season at Wake and it will be a crucial one.

"Because of last season we were able to recruit a lot of athletes who normally would not have believed that Wake Forest could have the kind of success other programs have had," Mackovic said. "Now, if we can show in the next few weeks that we are again a pretty good football team, we should be able to have another good recruiting year. That's very important for us right now."

Thus the Maryland game is crucial. A loss puts the Deacs at .500. A victory probably means another winning season -- at the least.

"Last year," said Mackovic, "we proved that winning at Wake isn't just a dream." If the Year After can even come close to The Year, the Deacons will prove with finality that 1979 was not mere fantasy.

Mackovic described his team as "bumped up," coming off the 27-9 loss to North Carolina. He said workouts would be more controlled this week because of the bruises and a flu epidemic the last two weeks. . . The Deacons are 1-1 in the ACC; the triumph, 27-7 over N.C. State. Maryland is 0-1, also losing to North Carolina.