Maryland's offensive players promised on Friday they wouldn't let the defense do all the work this week. "We feel we can score almost anytime we want to," many of them said.

Not only could the offense not score when it wanted, the Terrapins couldn't come close to scoring when they needed to.

The offense sputtered and blundered at nearly every turn last night, giving West Virginia every chance it needed to take a 31-21 victory out of Byrd Stadium.

The second largest home crowd ever, 54,715, watched the first night game ever in this stadium. And before their eyes could get used to the dim portable lights, the Terrapins (1-1) had taken a 10-0 lead on the strength of two interceptions by Clarence Baldwin.

The Terrapins did little after quarterback Boomer Esiason's 28-yard touchdown pass to Greg Hill, except give the Mountaineers (3-0) the confidence to move at will in the second half.

West Virginia, after trailing by 10, scored 24 unanswered points. Jeff Hostetler threw for two touchdowns, the Mountaineers scored two more on the ground, and Paul Woodside kicked a 45-yard field goal to give WVU its third consecutive victory over Maryland.

Even a last-minute touchdown pass from Esiason to Hill couldn't prevent this from being the worst loss in Bobby Ross' 14-game career as head coach at Maryland.

"I really feel bad for the Maryland fans," said Esiason, who suffered a bruised shoulder when sacked in the first half, but still played every down.

"I feel I should apologize for the way we played--the way I played. I hope they don't shy away in the future."

With the offense looking abysmal, and Pitt coming to College Park next week, the future doesn't look especially promising for the Terrapins.

The Maryland coaches and players seem baffled trying to explain why a team with so much offensive potential has struggled to put together three good plays in a row for the first two games of this season.

"We started off well," Ross said, "but the same things that plagued us on offense last week plagued us this week."

The things Ross referred to were penalties (six), fumbles (one crucial one), dropped passes (many) and interceptions (two). With Maryland leading, 7-0, Hill dropped a pass in the end zone, and the 17th-ranked Terrapins had to settle for a field goal.

"It was totally my fault," said Hill. "I tried to cradle the ball into my chest instead of using my hands like I usually do."

"It was a continuous thing throughout the football game," Ross said.

"You could point your finger at a different player each time."

After a 43-yard field goal by Jess Atkinson put Maryland ahead, 10-0, West Virginia got a field goal from Woodside to pull within 10-3.

The next Terrapin drive was punctuated with a holding penalty that nullified a 20-yard pass to Russell Davis and an illegal receiver downfield penalty that washed out a pass to Sean Sullivan. "We had a chance to go up, 17-3," said Ross, shaking his head.

Even with all the blunders, it apeared Maryland would lead at halftime. But Esiason suffered a bruised right shoulder late in the second quarter, and on the next series, threw an interception (which was tipped) to Mountaineer safety Tim Agee, who returned it 14 yards to the Maryland 18.

Tom Gray ran 16 yards to the two on first down, setting up Ron Wolfley's two-yard touchdown run that tied the game, 10-10, with just more than a minute to play in the half.

"We thought we could cut out all those mistakes in the second half and put something together," Esiason said. "But we couldn't."

On the first possession of the second half, Maryland drove to the West Virginia 32, only to have Esiason throw an interception on third down to West Virginia's Derick Christian.

"I don't think we anticipated their quickness," said Esiason, who completed 23 of 42 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

West Virginia didn't score off the interception, but did take advantage of a 31-yard punt by Alan Sadler on the next series.

Mountaineer quarterback Hostetler didn't have an especially good game (11 of 22 for 218 yards) but he did throw for 44 yards to Rich Hollins; he beat Baldwin, who covered well but missed the attempt at another interception.

Tailback Gray ran 17 yards for the touchdown, breaking three tackles en route to a touchdown and 17-10 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter.

The Terrapins were moving the ball again on the next series, but Esiason's screen pass--which he had trouble throwing all night, was batted down at the line of scrimmage, and to make things worse for the home team, followed by a 23-yard punt by Sadler.

West Virgina, starting to feel confident, converted two third-down plays. On the second one, the Terrapins blitzed.

And Hostetler, whose forte is reading defenses, dumped the ball off over the middle to tight end Rob Bennett, who zigzagged his 240-pound body passed two defensive backs--Joe Kraus and Lendell Jones--for a 42-yard touchdown play.

That gave the Mountaineers (3-0) a 24-10 lead with a minute left in the third quarter. Atkinson kicked a 45-yard field goal five minutes into the fourth quarter, but the outcome had been decided.

Sadler had a 22-yard punt, and West Virginia inflicted more embarrassment on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to Hollins. The lead became 31-13. Esiason's 24-yard touchdown pass to Hill and a subsequent two-point conversion with 1:11 left was little consolation.

"West Virginia gave us a whipping," Ross said, summarizing everything.