And now, the Maryland Terrapins will resort to what they do every year after a game with Penn State: they'll think about next week. For the 21st straight time and 28th in 29 games, there will be no gloating in College Park because there was no victory over Penn State.

Two missed field goals in the fourth quarter by new place-kicker Ramon Paredes, a dropped pass by Eric Holder at the 10-yard line with 44 seconds left and a fumble by Alvin Blount at the 24 six seconds later left Maryland a 20-18 season-opening loser to Penn State yesterday before 50,750 in the intolerable 96-degree heat of Byrd Stadium.

Many of Maryland's fans will say the defeat also is intolerable, but not Coach Bobby Ross, whose team was ranked No. 7 by the Associated Press coming into this season and No. 1 by two other forecasters. "The loss was a bitter one, we know that," he said. "But, for crying out loud, the season isn't over. We'll put it behind us and go on about our lives.

"Because we lost a game by two points on the last play does not make us a poor football team."

The margin of victory for 19th-ranked Penn State came five minutes into the third quarter when Massimo Manca kicked a 46-yard field goal -- the longest of his career -- to erase the 18-17 lead Maryland had taken less than two minutes earlier.

The offense that produced 40 points a game for Maryland during the last half of 1984 only coughed and wheezed yesterday. The Terrapins gained only 137 yards passing and also contributed the first seven points to Penn State, which got the Terrapins off to an ominous start.

Quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, who completed 12 of 28 passes, certainly did not have his finest day. Even the 39-yard completion to Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof that took the Terrapins to the Penn State 37 with one minute to play was tipped by linebacker Rogers Alexander.

Three plays later, all the energy and promise of the afternoon had dissipated into the steam.

Gelbaugh's second-down pass hit Holder in the hands. A reception there and Paredes could have come in for a chip-shot field goal that could have put Maryland ahead.

Blount had played admirably all afternoon, rushing 21 times for 84 yards. On the play after Holder's drop, Blount made a reception at the 30. If he had fallen on the ball right there, Maryland would have had a first down. But he tried to shimmy upfield and didn't see cornerback Lance Hamilton, who spiked the ball loose.

"I turned upfield and I got hit," Blount said. "And when I hit the ground, the ball was just rolling away from me."

Gelbaugh said, protectively, "A guy fumbled a ball; you can't crucify him for that. We made several mistakes throughout the game that culminated in our losing."

Gelbaugh made two big ones, interceptions that helped Penn State take a 10-0 lead.

On the second play of the game, he misread defensive coverage and threw a screen right into the hands of Mike Zordich, who took the mistake 32 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 lead.

Another interception, by linebacker Pete Giftopoulos at the nine, not only prevented Maryland from evening the score but led to Manca's 28-yard field goal that made it 10-0.

What apparently startled Maryland was Penn State quarterback John Shaffer's ability to throw deep, down the middle. "It did surprise us a little," safety Al Covington said.

One of the surprises -- Shaffer's 50-yard pass to freshman receiver Mike Timpson -- set up a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bob Williams that made it 17-0.

By that point, Ross was furious. He called the offensive unit over to the sideline for a few words. "I was very upset at the time," Ross said. "There were still 12 minutes to play in the second quarter and we were hanging our heads. I got after them."

Maryland has fallen behind before. Ross has had some words with them and Maryland has caught up. Simple formula. It worked again, to a point.

The Terrapins went 66 yards and got a 22-yard field goal from Paredes, the little soccer-style kicker from Paraguay scoring the first points of his career.

And after a fumble on the ensuing kickoff by Penn State, fullback Rick Badanjek (81 yards in 20 carries) put on a virtuoso performance by carrying three straight times for 22 yards, scoring from eight yards to get Maryland to 17-10.

The Terrapins wasted an opportunity to tie before the half. After an interception by senior cornerback Donald Brown, the Terrapins couldn't move from midfield and had to punt.

Outside linebacker Scott Schankweiler said while he didn't feel Maryland was in control, "I thought things were really starting to go our way."

They were. Chuck Faucette intercepted Shaffer, and Maryland needed only four plays to set up Badanjek's second touchdown, this one a five-yard run. Instead of kicking the extra point to tie, holder Dan Henning took the snap and threw to tight end Chris Knight, sending Maryland into the lead, 18-17, with 11 minutes to play in the third quarter.

Glory didn't seem far away for Maryland at that point, even after Manca's 46-yard field goal put the Lions ahead, 20-18.

After all, who could believe Maryland would be shut out the final 26 minutes? Paredes missed a 34-yard attempt with 11 minutes left in the game, then went wide right on a 51-yarder -- which was plenty long enough -- with 2:35 left.

Maryland's defense kept forcing turnovers -- three fumbles and two interceptions -- but the offense looked typical of Maryland in the early season (the Terrapins have lost three of their last four openers).

Maryland got its final chance when Penn State couldn't convert a third-down pass with 1:24 to play. Not many people had left, considering the heat. Who wanted to miss Maryland's first victory over Penn State since 1961? But turnovers eventually stopped Maryland. "You can't do that and beat a team as good as Penn State," Gelbaugh said. "It just won't happen."

Len Lynch, Maryland's senior left guard, shook his head and said, "We started clicking, then turned it over. You turn it over, you lose."

And from Ross: "I think it was going to be a case of who made the last turnover."

So Maryland was left to talk about next week. "We've got character and we'll come back," Lynch said.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," Ross said. "But I've also got to be a realist because we've got 10 more games to play."

But the Terrapins now have another kind of pressure to face: Boston College on the road next week.

Meanwhile, Penn State Coach Joe Paterno looked to the sky and smiled as he left the field, still having not lost to Maryland.

"They missed a field goal, we made one," he said. "That was the difference . . . I don't pay any attention to any of that jinx stuff."