"I've been waking up the last two mornings thinking about it. It's been like a nightmare. It bugs me that I'll never have a chance to show what I can do at home again." -- Maryland tight end John Tice

John Tice has played flawlessly at times during his career. He is a fifth-year senior whose excellence this season has been a primary reason why the Terrapins are such a vastly improved team.

But three days after his fumble in the fourth quarter against Clemson ended what could have been a game-winning drive, Tice finds himself somewhat tormented by the memory of a bittersweet play on which his first lost fumble at Maryland spoiled his 11th reception of the day, a school record.

With 3:48 left and Maryland in field goal range, trailing, 24-22, Tice caught a short pass, but his hands were stripped from the ball by Clemson's Terry Kinard.

The game was being televised in various parts of the nation. Tice's brother Mike, a former Maryland quarterback, didn't see him at his best.

"Mike called me Saturday night. They (CBS-TV) weren't showing our game in Seattle, but they switched to it just before I fumbled, which made Mike think I had a miserable game. He told me to forget it and just tuck the ball away next time.

"One uncle and one cousin called from New York and another called from Florida. They told me not to spend all my time reflecting on one play."

Teammates have encouraged Tice instead to reflect on the 10 catches he made Saturday, four of which came on third downs and covered 47 yards. Everybody in Byrd Stadium knew Tice was the primary receiver on those third down plays, but even a defense as sound as Clemson's couldn't stop him from getting open.

"He was great no matter what happened on that last one," Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason said after the game. "He's been great all season."

Ironically, it is Esiason who is responsible for John Tice not being a quarterback.

Tice was the quarterback of a team in the East Islip (N.Y.) Youth League. The Tice family went on vacation one week, and when John returned, he had lost his quarterback spot to a skinny 9-year-old named Boomer Esiason.

Not many since then have replaced Tice. He is Maryland's most productive receiver and one of the best tight ends in the nation.

Tice is 6 feet 5, 240 pounds, fast, has good hands, is an excellent blocker, smart.

"He's an excellent pro prospect," Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said yesterday. "He's got all the qualities you'd want from an NFL tight end."

Tice leads the Terrapins in receptions with 32 and has caught passes in 23 consecutive games. His knowledge of the game is so sound that Mike, now a tight end with the Seattle Seahawks, has called for advice on how to play the position.

Tailback Willie Joyner pointed out that about half of his 869 yards rushing this season should go to Tice.

Maryland's second tight end, Ron Fazio, is said to be the most improved Terrapin. Fazio said just watching Tice has made him a better player. "I've got to work at it, though," Fazio said. "John just does it."

After Maryland plays Virginia Saturday and probably on Christmas Day against UCLA in the Aloha Bowl, Tice is likely to find himself in the NFL.

"My main goal is the NFL," Tice said. "I haven't given a whole lot of thought to anything else as far as future plans."

Maryland's total attendance has reached 458,122. The record is 535,637 in 1975. The school needs at least 35,000 at Virginia Saturday and at least 45,000 at a postseason game to set a new record . . . If the Terrapins go to the Aloha Bowl and receive $325,000, the athletic department wants to build an indoor tennis facility and improve the lighting at the football practice field.