After frantically pursuing passers and receivers the past two weeks, and yielding an unaccustomed 53 points, Maryland's defensive team is looking forward to a fun afternoon Saturday in Chapel Hill, banging heads with a North Carolina offense that ranks fourth in the nation with an average rushing output of 303 yards.

"Our problem this week defensively is that after two weeks worrying about the pass, we've gotten soft," said Coach Bobby Ross, whose Terrapins are fourth nationally in rushing defense at 66 yards a game. "Now we have to go back to being hard. Carolina has as good, and as big, an offensive line as there is in the country, and they execute very well.

"Their three tailbacks could start for almost anybody in the country, their two quarterbacks execute very well and their receivers are people with excellent speed. We'll still be thinking about the pass, because they can break the game open when they do throw, but this game should be decided in the trenches, for the most part."

Just in case Ross missed any of Carolina's assets, defensive coordinator Gib Romaine noted, "Their fullbacks are excellent runners, too. They can break it up in the middle. They run the sweep, they have an inside power game and they can throw. They've got balance. We have to try to contain them and not let them break the long run."

Bearing these prospects in mind, one would expect the Maryland defenders to be gnawing their fingernails. They aren't, of course. They are looking forward to fun and/or relaxation, depending on position and outlook.

"We enjoy playing the run more than the pass," said tackle Mark Duda, whose eight quarterback sacks lead the Terrapins. "You get in on more plays and you have more action. Against a passing team, one sack is considered a good day. Against the run, you're more involved and it's more fun.

"Their offensive line is pretty big, with guys 290 and 270, and it suits the way they play. Their big guys take people off the ball and their backs find the hole pretty quickly.

"They're bigger, but strengthwise on the line of scrimmage I think we're fairly even. Last year, they didn't push us around and we didn't push them around, either. They're a really physical football team and that's what we pride ourselves on. It'll be a battle of strength against strength, with a lot of it one on one up front."

Guard Mike Corvino, another fourth-year starter, has had more opportunity to analyze this game than he would like, forced to cheerleading and key-reading duty on the sidelines by a knee injury.

"Carolina's offensive line is probably better than Penn State or West Virginia," Corvino said. "The blocking schemes they use and the quickness with which their backs hit the line, they don't have to be in your way long.

"Their offensive line is always pretty powerful and in the past they seemed to outweigh us, but they were never stronger than us. They have pretty good athletes up front and we do, too. We think that's where the game will be won or lost."

Replacing Corvino is junior Tyrone Furman, an all-state fullback at Franklin High in Reisterstown, Md., who can appreciate Carolina's running ability.

"There will be no arm-tackling this game; we'll have to get our licks," Furman said. "We've adjusted our steps in practice and gotten used to running blocks coming at us instead of pass protection.

"Coach Ross told us in our meeting that it was time to go back to the old Maryland defense, the one we're famous for -- stopping the run. Everybody is psyched for it and it should be a great game in the trenches. There won't be room for too many mistakes, because a runner like (Kelvin) Bryant just needs a little slip and he's gone."

For the secondary, frequently maligned while Maryland has yielded 241 passing yards a game, highest in the ACC, this week almost figures as a vacation.

"We'll be more relaxed, because we're not expecting as many passes," said cornerback Lendell Jones, whose four interceptions against Duke put him into the ACC lead with seven.

"We'll still be concentrating on pass defense, but we'll be able to read a lot quicker and, if it's a run, we'll be up there to help out on tackles. They will throw a pass occasionally, and if they go deep their receivers have good speed, so our first priority is the pass.

"If they get through, we'll have to make sure tackles; hit 'em high and hit 'em hard. We know they're big and strong, and we'll be ready to put a good, hard lick on them if they break through. Of course, I'm hoping I won't have to."