One scene here late Wednesday night typifies the vast difference in the way Maryland and Washington are approaching Saturday's Aloha Bowl.

Three Maryland players walked briskly along Kuhio Avenue, looking at their watches to make sure they could make it back to the hotel by 11:30 curfew. Passing the Terrapins were three Washington players, headed toward Jolly Roger to start having fun.

For the Terrapins, this week in Hawaii is a serious deal. Practices are intense. The players are recreating the atmosphere that existed the week before the North Carolina game. "This is serious," Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason said today. "We want to win this damn game."

For many of the Huskies, this week in Hawaii is surfing, partying, dancing until 3 a.m. There were no curfews the first four nights here, although now an 11:30 limit is imposed. A casual observer wouldn't necessarily know the Huskies are here for a football game. "We want to win, too," said Washington safety Chris O'Connor, "but Bowl week is fun week."

The contrast is sharp, for many reasons.

Washington has been to bowl games three times in four years; the Sun once and the Rose twice. No big deal, this trip to the inaugural Aloha Bowl.

"We blew another trip to the Rose Bowl (by losing to Washington State) and it's been a letdown," O'Connor said. "We wanted to go to Pasadena again. It's a lot of fun here, but this doesn't compare with the Rose."

For Maryland, a victory here could finish a remarkable turnaround.

"A win Saturday will give us prestige," Esiason said. "It would give us a possible top 10 ranking, which Maryland hasn't had in who knows how long. It would be the school's first bowl victory since 1977 (the Hall of Fame)."

"I understand why it could be a letdown for Washington," Esiason said. "It would be for me, too, if I had gone to the Rose Bowl twice. But we're trying to get in the spotlight that's already shining on Washington."

The Maryland players are aware of the Huskies' looser attitude, but only talk about it when asked.

"We hear about the things they're doing," said senior defensive tackle Gurnest Brown. "But we're not horseplaying. The game could come down to the fourth quarter and discoing might have an effect. I think 11 p.m. is late enough to be out. Hawaii nightlife can be rough."

The serious route has been the usual approach for Maryland, especially under strict disciplinarian Jerry Claiborne in the '70s. And many times, the Terrapins lost to the team which had almost no sleep.

As senior offensive captain Dave Pacella pointed out, "We took the (1980) Tangerine Bowl seriously, too. Coach Claiborne had the curfews and everything. Florida was running the town and they still beat us pretty bad (35-20). So we're not playing up what Washington is doing."

Washington's desire to win this game has been questioned. Chris O'Connor had this answer.

"We did all the hard drilling during the season," he said. "This is supposed to be fun. Coach (Don) James sets it up this way. We're having a lot of fun now, but come game time, we're competitors. Throughout the week, the coaches have been telling us, 'Have fun, but don't get out of hand.'

"The game has always been in the back of our minds," O'Connor said. "We've had very good practices the last couple of days. And guys have been getting themselves into bed a little earlier, realizing the game is near."

There was more adventure for the Terrapins this afternoon.

Mike Lewis, a senior wide receiver, suffered cramps in his legs and shoulders while swimming several hundred yards off Waikiki Beach and was tossed a life raft from a passing boat before reaching safety.

Lewis laughed about the incident later, as did his teammates.

"It seemed like I was about a half-mile out, way out where the surfers catch their waves," Lewis said. "I thought I could make it in easily, but about 100 yards from the shore, my legs cramped. I was just dog paddling with my arms and then my shoulders cramped.

"I had already given Wayne Wingfield my float because I thought I could make it easily. But it was just after practice and I had eaten lunch and was exhausted. So I started yelling at this boat to throw me a float. I'm laughing now. But then, I saw everything flashing before my eyes. Enough beach action for me."