The one-back formation has been in the University of Maryland football playbook since last winter, but Saturday it left the pages and became a living, breathing phase of the offense for the first time.

"I think we'll go along and keep it in our repertoire and use it a little every week," Coach Joe Krivak said yesterday at his weekly news conference. "Maybe we'll add a little to it as we go along and see how successful we are with it. It allows us to split up our two best backs, get them the same amount of carries, and it utilizes some of our skill people. How much we use it depends on how much success we have with it. It will definitely stay in our offense."

Fullback Dennis Spinelli and tailback Bren Lowery split time.

"All the backs run basically the same plays, run the same routes, so it doesn't make any difference whether it's a fullback or tailback," Krivak said.

Maryland is thin at running back, and because the three games so far have been close, Krivak has not substituted for Spinelli and Lowery as much as he might have liked. The one-back set gives one or the other a breather.

"You can't play two running backs 65 or 70 plays every game," Krivak said. "Down the road it's going to catch up with you."

Instead of the second running back, Maryland has used a second tight end. The Washington Redskins use a similar format. The H-back, as the second tight end is called, often goes in motion from the backfield.

"With two tight ends and two wideouts," said offensive coordinator Jim Cavanaugh, "it balances out the defense."

"It's not strictly a pass offense," said running backs coach Tony Whittlesey. "Two tight ends let us keep the mystery of which way the play is going a little longer."

Normally, Ferrell Edmunds is the only tight end in the game, and because of his talent, the defense aligns itself according to where he is.

"With the one back," said quarterback Dan Henning, "the defense can't overshift and key on Ferrell."

Said Edmunds of West Virginia's reaction, "They were dropping deeper into a zone. That made it a lot easier."

Edmunds caught four passes against Virginia and three against West Virginia, including a 36-yarder to set up the winning touchdown. Fans wonder why he doesn't get the ball more.

"I don't get a lot of mail, but I got a six-page letter from a guy last week, really critiquing, in unbelieveable length, our game against Virginia," Krivak said with a smile. "One thing the guy said I have to do is throw the ball more to Ferrell Edmunds. I agree with him."

Krivak did answer the letter.

"Not six pages, though," he said. "I was tempted to ask him to come out and help us, but I was afraid he might do it. Everybody wants to help."

Maryland Notes:

Athletic Director Lew Perkins and Krivak said that Maryland would listen to any offers to switch its games from Saturday to Sunday to fill the void created by an NFL strike, but they weren't enthusiastic about the possibility.

"It would need to be the right situation financially," Krivak said of the television money that could make such a switch worthwhile.

"Tickets, airplane reservations, there's all sorts of problems," Perkins said. "And why do it? College football is played on Saturday." . . .

Nose guard Bob Arnold dressed for practice yesterday, but didn't work much because of his strained knee. Arnold may be able to play Saturday against North Carolina State, but trainer J.J. Bush said more would be known after today's practice.

Arnold's backup, Mike Kiselak, played about 20 plays Saturday and the "quality picked up" from the week before, defensive line coach Dennis Murphy said . . .

Wide receiver James Milling, who missed the first three games with a broken finger, practiced some yesterday. Krivak was not sure whether Milling would be ready by Saturday. "If you can't practice hard Tuesday or Wednesday, going hard at least one day," Krivak said, "then I don't think you can play well on Saturday."