The record is so nearly perfect it seems unjustifiable. Penn State has played Maryland 27 times in 67 years and won 26 times.

An even more dominant statistic is that Penn State has won 19 straight games. Maryland last won in 1961.

The Terrapins will try again here on Saturday at 12:15 before about 84,000 in Beaver Stadium. Penn State, as usual, will be the overwhelming favorite.

Some Maryland losses have come in unusual ways. There was the game in 1974 when Maryland had receiver Alan Bloomingdale open at the five-yard line, but Bob Avellini overthrew him on fourth down.

Maryland lost that game, 24-17. In the same game, the Terrapins tried a lateral on the kickoff only to have it picked off in midair by a Nittany Lion and returned for a touchdown.

There was also the time in 1975 when Mike Sochko missed a field goal toward the end of the game, and left Penn State a 15-13 winner.

There have been close games, odd games, blowouts and some very exciting ones, including Maryland's 39-31 loss here two years ago. But all the games -- except that one in 1961 -- have something in common. Penn State won.

Even Penn State officials, though proud of the victories, seem embarrasssed when the subject of their domination of this series comes up.

Jim Tarman, the Penn State athletic director who has seen all but six of the games between his school and Maryland, frowned when asked for his theories.

"Quite frankly, I find it very difficult to account for the one sidedness of this series," Tarman said.

"It would be too easy to say, but many of those years we just had better teams. But that, it seems, was the case. Beyond that, though, there were some other circumstances. We were very fortunate at times. I remember the game in which Maryland missed the field goal at the end and lost by two.

"And there were at least two times I can remember when we played Maryland on bowl invitation day and had to win to get a bid to the Orange Bowl (1968 and 1969).

"And Maryland had several coaches during one stretch (while Penn State had only Joe Paterno) and couldn't maintain any continuity. But it's tough to pin down why."

Paterno, who has also seen all but six of the games (either as assistant or head coach of the Lions), said today, "We never talk about the record. I don't want to sound like I'm giving you a song and dance. I just don't see any sense in thinking of it.

"There have been years, of course, when we just had better teams. But there were also some games when Jerry (Claiborne, former Maryland coach) had some better teams and we still won. And that's just tough to explain.

"But there have been circumstances, too," Paterno said. "Particularly that one year when the Maryland kid missed a field goal that would have won the game. I felt that day that somebody was taking care of me and the team."

Tarman's counterpart at Maryland, Dick Dull, grew up in Pennsylvania and was one of the state's best high school athletes in the early 1960s. He went to Penn State football games, was a fan for years and wanted to throw the javelin for Penn State's track and field team.

So this series and its one-sided nature is particularly painful to Dull. Like others, he knows the primary source of Maryland's frustration with Penn State

"As much as I hate to admit it -- and it doesn't make me feel very good to say this -- they quite frankly have had better football teams than we have," Dull said.

Rich Milot, a linebacker for the Washington Redskins who played at Penn State, agreed the Lions often "had the better athletes," and pointed out that one year Penn State sent Matt Millen, Bruce Clark, Larry Kubin, Lance Mehl and Milot -- among others -- against Maryland.

Of course there were other factors.

"There were two years when the schedule was not in our favor," Dull said, referring to Penn State not being on Maryland's schedule in 1976 when the Terrapins were 11-0 and last year when they were 8-3.

Even Paterno said today, "They would have beaten our ears off in 1976, and we weren't very good at any point last year."

Even assuming Maryland would have won those two games, 3-26 is still not parity. And the people at Maryland -- those who have been there longer than third-year Coach Bobby Ross -- realize how that has affected past Maryland teams.

"There was a period," Dull said, "when we never believed we could beat Penn State. I don't think the '60s were that important, when we didn't win too many games against anybody. But it probably began in the '70s, with some of Coach Claiborne's teams which were very good. And it was evident that two things were for certain: Maryland went to a bowl game every year. And Maryland lost to Penn State every year."

Dull said he thinks that psychological block was cleared two years ago when Maryland lost, but played boldly and approached Penn State as it would Duke or Virginia.

"I'm not saying we're going to win Saturday," Dull said. "But I think the game in 1982 will help erase the psychological disadvantage Maryland had for so long."

Although Dull said this game is important to him because "I've got personal feelings involved," he added, "It really comes down to wanting to compete successfully with the company you keep. I respect Penn State, in terms of football, academically and from the standpoint that they win without cheating. But I want to win."

Dick Shiner, the quarterback of the winning 1961 Maryland team, knows the feeling. He also remembers what 1962 felt like.

Shiner and Don Caum, the two most recruited high school quarterbacks in central Pennsylvania when they were both seniors, were both sought by Penn State.

Shiner became an outstanding Terrapin quarterback. The Lions selected Caum, who became a defensive player. In 1962, with Maryland going for its second straight victory against Penn State, Caum intercepted Shiner twice and the Lions won, 23-7.

"It's so hard to answer 'why?' when you have things like that happening," Tarman said.

Paterno's first victory as a head coach, 19 seasons ago, was against Maryland. The Lions needed three safeties to win, 15-7.

Still, Paterno said, "You know what I remember most? The one we lost. I can still see (Gary) Collins catching the post pattern that beat us.

"I know the record means nothing in terms of the future," Paterno said. "Nothing at all."