A missed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and confusion on the sideline in the final four seconds weren't the only reasons Maryland lost to Penn State here today.

If Maryland's defense had just held on half the third-and-long plays it allowed Penn State to convert, it would have been a truly jubilant day for Maryland, instead of the 20th straight loss to the Nittany Lions.

"We've had problems with third and long all year, and it happened again today," said defensive guard Greg Thompson.

An examination of the play by play shows just how much poor defense on third down hurt Maryland.

In the first quarter, Maryland had Penn State quarterback Doug Strang hemmed in, but couldn't prevent him from completing a third-and-10 pass to Herb Bellamy for 14 yards. One play later, the Lions scored for a 7-3 lead.

Toward the end of the first half, Strang on third and 15 threw again to Bellamy, this time for 29 yards to set up the touchdown that made it 14-3.

And in the third quarter, on third and four, Strang ducked under a would-be sack by linebacker Scott Schankweiler and completed a 36-yard pass to tailback Tony Mumford at the Maryland 41.

That was the key play in a drive that resulted in a Penn State 22-yard field goal, making it 17-11, instead of a Penn State punt from deep in its territory.

In all, Penn State converted eight of 18 third-down plays, with all of the conversions coming before the fourth quarter.

On a third-down play that was not converted, Strang was sacked by tackle Ted Chapman and fumbled the ball. But it fell right into the hands of Lions' center Nick Haden.

Instead of Maryland having the ball near the Penn State 20, John Bruno hit a 47-yard punt. Maryland threw an interception two plays later.

Maryland did play without starting defensive guard Bruce Mesner and reserve guard Neal Sampson, who were observing the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

But the Penn State offense played without sophomore tailback D.J. Dozier, a 1,000-yard rusher last year, out with an injured leg.

Strang, who's had completed 40 percent of his passes coming into today's game, completed nine of 19 attempts for 194 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns gave Penn State a 25-11 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

But Maryland mounted a better pass rush today than at any time this season, it seemed, and Ross noted his defenders held the Nittany Lions to 124 yards rushing on 50 attempts.

"They played tough and played the run extremely well," said Ross.