Arms clutching him, Bobby Ross shouted something about prayers being answered. As his third best catch of the day, Gurnest Brown's wife, settled into a serious hug, Mike Lewis muttered: "I'm high enough to faint." So the sighs were as prominent as the smiles yesterday for Maryland players and coaches. If there were, say, 87 ways to lose to Miami, they must have found 93 -- and still won.

We'll pass over Maryland's minor sins, the low throws and high snap, even the communication lapses that caused all the time-outs to be used with nearly eight minutes still left. The really scary stuff started on the sideline just before the two-point conversion that let the Terrapins win later on Jess Atkinson's field goal.

From afar during such moments, we imagine sober intellectual discussion, efficient use of every available mind to come up with the brilliant tactic that gets executed in every detail a few seconds later. Like hell.

Let quarterback Boomer Esiason tell you about something that began in confusion, seemed to get even worse and ended with the receiver most of Maryland figures surely must wear grease gloves actually holding the most important pass of the season.

"We were gonna run a dive play," Esiason recalled after the 18-17 victory. "Coach said it really ought to work if the defensive end walks off (toward the Maryland wideouts split to the left)."

Esiason had just one question:

"What if the end stays home?"

" 'Audible or something,' " the quarterback quoted his coach. " '0-72 or something.' "

Oh.

"I get into the huddle," Esiason said, "and say we're gonna run a dive, and if that doesn't work we'll go to 0-72. Everybody says: 'What's 0-72?' I say: 'Just pass block.' "

That huddle debate took long enough for the play clock to be ticking dangerously low when the Terrapins finally seemed set over the ball. They were--and they weren't. The guy elected to run the ball and the fellow who was supposed to lead the way were lined up wrong.

And the dratted defensive end wasn't moving toward Lewis.

"I looked up up, saw six seconds left and yelled," Esiason said, his voice a replay of that near-panic haste: " '0-72readyhike!' "

Botched badly enough already, here's what was supposed to happen on this 0-72 play that actually exists but almost nobody remembered: Greg Hill was to move in motion to the right, behind Lewis. On the snap, he was to dash upfield and set one of those picks that are illegal but almost never get called. Lewis then was to cut off him and break free in the end zone.

Hill never heard the audible.

No motion.

No pick.

No hope.

Nothing of the sort.

"I just followed Mike Lewis," Esiason said, "and threw it."

Hard. And slightly off target.

Had they time to fully grasp what was happening, turtle watchers would have been horrified instead of merely finger-chewing tense. Mike Lewis the primary receiver? Luckless Lewis? The guy who treats a football as though it were a live grenade?

The same.

To compound the problem, Lewis was maybe 10 yards from Esiason -- and the quarterback whipped a Ron Guidry hummer. High and outside.

"Did bobble it," Lewis admitted. "It was slightly behind me. When I was on the ground (longer than usual), I saw where it could have gone, and where it stayed.

"Never ran it in our lives," he said, "and it worked. Somebody upstairs gave us a break this time."

He also evened the Lewis ledger. About time this classy senior was the hero in a big game. Until now, his career has been a sort of low-lights film, what with all the critical punts and wide-open passes he's dropped.

"When he's on, though," said Mark Duda, "he's as good an athlete as we have."

An injury to Russell Davis let Lewis get a chance to click on against Miami.

"They moved me to his spot, and that gave me confidence," Lewis said. "That lets you know they care, even though I've had a slow-down Before the Two-Point Conversion, All-Points Confusion KEN DENLINGER

Arms clutching him, Bobby Ross shouted something about prayers being answered. As his third best catch of the day, Gurnest Brown's wife, settled into a serious hug, Mike Lewis muttered: "I'm high enough to faint." So the sighs were as prominent as the smiles yesterday for Maryland players and coaches. If there were, say, 87 ways to lose to Miami, they must have found 93--and still won.

We'll pass over Maryland's minor sins, the low throws and high snap, even the communication lapses that caused all the time-outs to be used with nearly eight minutes still left. The really scary stuff started on the sideline just before the two-point conversion that let the Terrapins win later on Jess Atkinson's field goal.

From afar during such moments, we imagine sober intellectual discussion, efficient use of every available mind to come up with the brilliant tactic that gets executed in every detail a few seconds later. Like hell.

Let quarterback Boomer Esiason tell you about something that began in confusion, seemed to get even worse and ended with the receiver most of Maryland figures surely must wear grease gloves actually holding the most important pass of the season.

"We were gonna run a dive play," Esiason recalled after the 18-17 victory. "Coach said it really ought to work if the defensive end walks off (toward the Maryland wideouts split to the left)."

Esiason had just one question:

"What if the end stays home?"

" 'Audible or something,' " the quarterback quoted his coach. " '0-72 or something.' "

Oh.

"I get into the huddle," Esiason said, "and say we're gonna run a dive, and if that doesn't work we'll go to 0-72. Everybody says: 'What's 0-72?' I say: 'Just pass block.' "

That huddle debate took long enough for the play clock to be ticking dangerously low when the Terrapins finally seemed set over the ball. They were -- and they weren't. The guy elected to run the ball and the fellow who was supposed to lead the way were lined up wrong.

And the dratted defensive end wasn't moving toward Lewis.

"I looked up up, saw six seconds left and yelled," Esiason said, his voice a replay of that near-panic haste: " '0-72readyhike!' "

Botched badly enough already, here's what was supposed to happen on this 0-72 play that actually exists but almost nobody remembered: Greg Hill was to move in motion to the right, behind Lewis. On the snap, he was to dash upfield and set one of those picks that are illegal but almost never get called. Lewis then was to cut off him and break free in the end zone.

Hill never heard the audible.

No motion.

No pick.

No hope.

Nothing of the sort.

"I just followed Mike Lewis," Esiason said, "and threw it."

Hard. And slightly off target.

Had they time to fully grasp what was happening, turtle watchers would have been horrified instead of merely finger-chewing tense. Mike Lewis the primary receiver? Luckless Lewis? The guy who treats a football as though it were a live grenade?

The same.

To compound the problem, Lewis was maybe 10 yards from Esiason -- and the quarterback whipped a Ron Guidry hummer. High and outside.

"Did bobble it," Lewis admitted. "It was slightly behind me. When I was on the ground (longer than usual), I saw where it could have gone, and where it stayed.

"Never ran it in our lives," he said, "and it worked. Somebody upstairs gave us a break this time."

He also evened the Lewis ledger. About time this classy senior was the hero in a big game. Until now, his career has been a sort of low-lights film, what with all the critical punts and wide-open passes he's dropped.

"When he's on, though," said Mark Duda, "he's as good an athlete as we have."

An injury to Russell Davis let Lewis get a chance to click on against Miami.

"They moved me to his spot, and that gave me confidence," Lewis said. "That lets you know they care, even though I've had a slow-down year. And catching balls like that today really boosted me. After the game, I had more energy than I had at Carolina. I felt a rush to my head."

Punt returns bedeviled the Terrapins. Lewis' replacement, Tim Quander, fumbled after an 18-yard return; Miami recovered and scored a touchdown with 2:11 left before halftime.

Esiason put the game--and Maryland's season so far--in proper focus:

"We should have won the West Virginia game (when another, more well-conceived, two-point play failed); we shouldn't have won this one. I don't feel great. But, hey, we did win. Last year we'd probably have lost."

Probably. Playing well, Maryland whipped a very good team, North Carolina, last week. Playing poorly enough to lose yesterday, Maryland still beat a decent team lacking only an experienced quarterback.

The celebration in the dressing room had gone several minutes when somebody remembered Clemson and shouted: "(ACC) Championship game next week!"

The skeleton for extra stands stood just outside the end zone yesterday; 800 Clemson tickets were sold before darkness set in over Byrd Stadium. Still, it was not quite time to look ahead. So much madness, so much that had gone wrong against Miami.

Clouds last year over Maryland; sunshine this season.

Giddiness.

"You can quote me on this," assistant John Misciagna said. "We killed 'em."