Joe Krivak already had a full head of gray hair when he stepped into the footprints Bobby Ross left on his way to Georgia Tech. If it were possible, one more sprouted on the first pass his Terrapins tried yesterday.

From the Maryland 16, Dan Henning took aim at the graceful receiver who gets great gains simply by running the length of his name. But a Virginia defender seemed to have a better chance at the ball than Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof.

"Very close," Krivak said. Too close from his sideline perspective. Had Keith McMeans mustered the interception, he surely would have scampered into the end zone and the Cavaliers would have been in wonderful position to end a losing streak against Maryland that has covered most of two decades.

"I think Virginia knew our audibles," Abdur-Ra'oof said. "We talked about that after the game." Even so, Maryland prevailed on a play that rather symbolized the entire exercise in Byrd Stadium.

McMeans not only missed catching the ball, but also of altering its path toward Abdur-Ra'oof. Instead of being a touchdown behind, Abdur-Ra'oof was off to a 20-yard gain that helped move Maryland into an early, 7-0 lead.

"That's what's known as the edge," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "You make those plays and you win; you don't make those plays and you lose."

Neither team offered anything close to inspirational. Maryland fans were twice grateful, for the victory and a storm staying elsewhere until most had reached their cars. They also were apprehensive, because Maryland was a botched pitchout on a conversion away from being tied.

A dramatic Maryland-Virginia game is highly unusual, the Terrapins having won the previous seven by a combined 267-89. By the time Cavaliers fans settle into their seats most times, Maryland has settled the outcome.

The questions about both teams started long before the kickoff -- and most never got fully answered. For instance, how come the Terrapins were favored by 12 points after they played so lousy in their opener and Virginia played so well?

Also, will Virginia's offense still be run by a two-man committee? Scott Secules and Shawn Moore played about two quarters each at quarterback, same as last week against Georgia. Moore rallied the Cavaliers this time, but was the quarterback when Georgia came from behind in the opener.

"I'll decide later," Welsh said about whether one quarterback will emerge. "Call me in the middle of the week."

On second thought, hold the calls. A minute later in his postgame news conference, Welsh said he would make one more statement, and then field no more questions, about the quarterback situation.

"If we lose, I get fired," Welsh said. "If I make the wrong decision, I'll get fired."

The only matter about which there could be no doubt was the identity of the most productive defensive player on the field. So often was his name mentioned, on tackles and passes batted away, one would swear Sean Scott never left the field.

Truth is, he rarely did.

The quirk of the football season may well be this: No. 51 for Virginia is named Sean Scott; No. 51 for Maryland is named Sean Scott. So some confused viewers probably figured that Sean Scott might be the greatest No. 51 since Dick Butkus.

For most of the third quarter, there was good reason for Virginia to say to the officials: "If it's all right with you, give Maryland the ball." That's because the Terrapins were in such a generous mood.

Maryland's third play of the third quarter was a fumble Virginia recovered; Maryland's fourth play of the third quarter was an interception; Maryland's sixth play of the third quarter was another fumble Virginia grabbed.

Still, the Cavaliers could get just two field goals from the three turnovers. Once it got serious, which is to say directing passes toward Abdur-Ra'oof and tight end Ferrell Edmunds, Maryland regained control.

Krivak insists his is an equal-opportunity offense, designed so that Henning can choose the most open receiver for a completion. A half-dozen guys ought to have a couple of catches each game, Krivak insists.

Perhaps it was coincidence that Edmunds and Abdur-Ra'oof made the important receptions game long. Perhaps not. Whatever, Abdur-Ra'oof and Edmunds were the targets when Maryland seemed close to desperate.

During the turnaround drive in the third period, when Maryland regained its offensive poise and increased a one-point lead to eight, the 6-foot-6 Edmunds made two special catches.

On the first, he showed that it is almost possible to overthrow him. But not quite. On the second, Edmunds demonstrated an ability to hold onto the ball while in a human vise.

One Cavalier nailed Edmunds high, another hit him low as the ball was arriving from Henning at the Virginia 5. Having seen Edmunds come to grips with the ball at the Virginia 5, Bren Lowery didn't drop it until he had pranced into the end zone moments later.