Jess Atkinson hasn't been a Maryland football player for three years now, but he still remembers vividly the Miracle in Miami. And if his memory failed him, he has it on tape.

"I've watched the game a couple times on my VCR, and it's still exciting," said Atkinson, who is now a member of the striking Washington Redskins. "But I only look at the second half."

That's the miraculous part if you're a Maryland fan. When the two teams met on Nov. 10, 1984, in the Orange Bowl, Miami ran up a 31-0 halftime lead, then the Terrapins scored on their first six possessions of the second half and eventually won, 42-40. The NCAA sanctioned the comeback as the biggest in Division I-A history.

Though the teams met in Baltimore in 1985, Maryland goes back to the Orange Bowl this Saturday night for the first time since that game.

"The comeback never would've happened if it had not been for the attitude of the Miami Hurricanes," Atkinson said. "No question about it. Those guys were the biggest cheap-shot, trash-talking, classless outfit of football players I've ever seen in my life.

"I've never seen a team that talked so much. They were digging in {linebacker Chuck} Faucette's face mask, poking his eyes. That really gets you mad. You can almost take getting beat if a team is kicking you're butts and they're doing it cleanly. And there was no question that they were kicking our butts in the first half. But that team made us mad, and it gave us a little extra incentive."

Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson didn't agree with Atkinson's recollections. "If they do say that, they're wrong because we don't play that way," Johnson said this week.

After the loss, Johnson had said, "This is the most disappointing loss I have ever been associated with." This week, he said of the defeat, "It faded a long time ago."

Maryland Coach Joe Krivak was the Terrapins' quarterbacks and receivers coach at that time. With his team now 2-2 and having to face the third-ranked Hurricanes Saturday night, Krivak didn't think the memory of '84 would help his crew that much.

"I haven't given that a whole lot of thought," Krivak said this week. "As far as I'm concerned, it's ancient history and I don't think it has any bearing on what we're doing now or the game Saturday night. Anyone who dwells in that realm detracts from what we've got at hand. It was a nice experience and a great thing that happened in my life. But, like so many things that have happened in my lifetime, that's behind me and I can't concern myself a great deal with that."

Led by quarterback Bernie Kosar's passing (19 of 29 for 240 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions or sacks), Miami outgained Maryland by 328 yards to 57 en route to a 31-0 halftime lead.

"{Coach Bobby Ross} had put a lot of emphasis on it during the week and we knew we let him down. But we were playing so badly, what could he say?" Atkinson said of Ross, who mentioned the possibility of postgame practice if the Terrapins didn't respond. "I think the effort was there, but we did every stupid thing we could do to blow the chances we had. In the first half, everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. In the second half, everything that could possibly go right, went right."

Frank Reich replaced Stan Gelbaugh at quarterback to start the second half, and he completed 12 of 15 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. The last one, which gave Maryland a 35-34 lead with 9 1/2 minutes left in the game, was an example of the change in luck. Reich's deep pass went off the hands of Miami safety Darrell Fullington into the hands of Maryland's Greg Hill, who then ran the last 30 yards of a 68-yard play.

After J.C. Penny fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Rick Badanjek made it 42-34 with a four-yard run. After a bad punt snap, Miami got the ball deep in Maryland territory and Kosar threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Brown to make it 42-40. Miami went for the two-point conversion to tie.

"It was almost as if it was too good to be true," Atkinson said.

But Keeta Covington stopped Melvin Bratton short of the goal line after a pass from Kosar.

"A lot of people remember that play," Covington said the other day, "but the play I remember is catching Bratton at the 8 after a {53-yard} reception {in the third quarter}. They got three points instead of seven. If it wasn't for that play, they wouldn't have needed the two points."

On the ensuing onside kick, Maryland's Joe Kraus stepped ahead of the 50-yard line to grab the ball and ran to the 1. Instead of pushing it in for another score, Ross elected to run out the clock.

"I wonder what Miami would have done in the same situation?" Atkinson said.

Maryland's secondary coach Greg Williams had been in the press box with Krivak and other coaches. After it was all over, he still wasn't sure it had really happened.

"It was a unique feeling," Williams said. "At the end, coach {Dick} Portee and I just sat at the 50-yard line for about 10 minutes shaking our heads. I just kept saying, '31-0, 31-0, 31-0 . . .' I'll tell you. If it happens again, it will be a while."

Midnight Practice Set

The Terrapins will open basketball practice Oct. 15 at one minute after midnight with a scrimmage.

"A lot of things have happened this past year, so I thought something different would arouse total campus participation and interest," Coach Bob Wade said. "It is a chance to see our veteran returning team along with some very fine newcomers that we have added."