For the first time in seven games, it didn't matter a hoot what the University of Maryland football team did in the second half.

The Terrapins scored three touchdowns in the first 17 minutes last night and gained more than 500 yards of total offense in beating West Virginia, 28-0, before 51,200 on a starry evening at Byrd Stadium.

It was Maryland's first shutout against a Division I-A team since the Terrapins beat Virginia in November 1980.

Quarterback Stan Gelbaugh came into the game having completed only 39 percent of his passes this season. But against a surprisingly overwhelmed West Virginia defense, he connected on 15 of 23 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

The score, lopsided as it was, still didn't tell just how soundly Maryland (2-1) beat West Virginia (2-1) for the first time in six games at home since 1966.

An interception prevented one more Maryland score in the fourth quarter, and senior fullback Rick Badanjek's streak of having scored in 12 straight games ended. But the Terrapins didn't need any more points to make their point, with the defense, which finished with six sacks, playing so well.

West Virginia Coach Don Nehlen had said earlier this week that his team would be much better off if it could play this game about a month later. At least.

Before the game was 17 minutes old, Maryland was ahead, 21-0. It was pretty well known that the Mountaineers didn't have much offense -- you have to wonder about any team that scored only 20 points against Duke.

But Nehlen had to believe, even the Terrapins had to believe, the West Virginia defense would be a bit more gruff -- although there is the distinct possibility that the Maryland offense has finally reached its level of expected efficiency.

The rout actually began on the third and fourth plays of the game, when West Virginia quarterback John Talley was sacked by Bruce Mesner and Scott Tye for a loss of 12 yards.

That Mountaineers boo-boo was compounded by Steve Superick's 19-yard punt, which gave Maryland its first possession at West Virginia's 36. And from there it took the Terrapins seven plays to take a 7-0 lead.

Badanjek went eight yards on two carries, and Tommy Neal ran four yards on third down to extend the drive. Two yards later the Terrapins pulled off their best offensive play of the season.

On second-and-17 from the 31 after a holding penalty, Gelbaugh passed 28 yards to Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof, who struggled down to the three. Neal ran off left tackle on the next play for the game's first score.

ON West Virginia's next series, Talley threw incomplete twice around a three-yard run by tailback John Holifield.

Maryland had to drive a lot farther -- 82 yards -- for its next touchdown but the Terrapins took only seven plays and looked like the team that averaged 499 yards and 39 points over the last seven games last season -- all victories.

Badanjek started the drive with a 16-yard run, then Gelbaugh hit Ra'oof for 15 more to midfield. The Mountaineers defense was trying to cover Ra'oof with one man, which rarely works.

Two plays later, Gelbaugh hit James Milling for 23 yards, opening up the middle for Neal's 13-yard run to the 17. Finally, Gelbaugh found Abdur Ra'oof open for an 11-yard touchdown as Maryland took a 14-0 lead with just less than eight minutes elapsed in the game.

West Virginia held the ball for a few more plays the next series -- six to be exact -- before having to punt. And Maryland was actually shut out when Ramon Paredes missed a 20-yard field goal at the end of a 77-yard drive.

But the Terrapins got another chance two plays later when Talley, attempting a pass to tailback Tom Gray, was intercepted by Maryland cornerback Keeta Covington after his brother Al had tipped the pass.

Maryland had first and 20 after a holding penalty against Len Lynch. But an eight-yard reverse run and a 25-yard reception by Abdur Ra'oof pushed Maryland to the West Virginia seven. Neal's second carry -- this one for five yards -- gave the Terrapins a third touchdown as they took a 21-0 lead with 13 minutes still left in the first half.