The pattern has stayed the same. Only the opponents have changed.

North Carolina played solid if unspectacular football but left Byrd Stadium with a 27-14 victory yesterday in large part because the consistently inconsistent Maryland Terrapins didn't make plays when they had wonderful opportunities to do so.

"I think the most we played for was a quarter-and-a-half," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak said. "Some kids played hard but others just went through the motions. I didn't think North Carolina played exceptionally well, either. They just made more plays than we did and we made more mistakes than they did."

The loss leaves Maryland 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It's not impossible for the Terrapins still to win the conference title, but it isn't very likely. After playing Penn State next week in Baltimore, they play their one remaining ACC game at first-place Clemson. The Tar Heels, who had a very balanced attack (158 yards rushing, 171 passing), moved up to 5-3 overall, 3-1 in the ACC. They will be in Clemson next week for the game that probably will decide the title.

The 35,425 at Byrd saw North Carolina lead, 20-0, at halftime on two field goals by Kenny Miller, Mark Maye's first of two touchdown passes to Eric Lewis following a Maryland fumble, and a blocked punt return by Norris Davis for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the second quarter.

Maryland cut the lead to 20-7 with a touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter. But when excellent chances were wasted by the Terrapins on their next two possessions, this ugly game on a beautiful day was essentially over.

"When we execute and perform to our capabilities, I feel we can compete with anybody in the country," said center and cocaptain Bill Hughes. "But there are other points where we should be in the Ivy League. And I'm not knocking the Ivy League. Sometimes we look horrible, sometimes we look fantastic."

The Terrapins defense made the Tar Heels settle for a field goal on the game's first series after the Tar Heels had reached the Maryland 5. Maryland started at its 24 and on the first play Neil O'Donnell, in his first start at quarterback, threw deep to Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof along the left sideline -- a likely touchdown. The pass hit between the redshirt senior's numbers and fell through his hands.

"Should've made the catch," Abdur-Ra'oof said. "I was too anxious, tried to catch it in my body and run before I caught it."

Off the second-half kickoff, Maryland began at its 26. On second down, O'Donnell threaded a 23-yard pass through coverage to Vernon Joines. Three plays later, Maryland had third and two at the North Carolina 40. The Tar Heels came with a blitz. Running back Bren Lowery helped pick up the extra rush coming up the middle and O'Donnell threw to Joines in the flat just before the passer was cracked in the head by strong safety Davis, who came from the outside.

Joines caught the ball at about the 30, put a fake on cornerback Skeet Baldwin that the Tar Heel may be still trying to figure out and ran the rest of the way untouched. Fantastic.

Forcing the Tar Heels to punt on the next series, Maryland started at its 11. On third and one from the 20, O'Donnell, led by guard Dave Amend, bootlegged out left. Tight end Ferrell Edmunds, coming from the other side, was 15 yards ahead of any defender behind him and 10 in back of the Tar Heels cornerback on that side. With those long legs, Edmunds could've run forever -- or at least the 65 yards he needed to score. Could have.

"I was so wide open I tried to run before I caught it," said Edmunds, who dropped it. "I came to the sideline and said to myself I've got to do something to make up for it."

He did on the next series. On first down at his 4, O'Donnell hit Edmunds with a pass he turned into a 73-yard gain, his team's longest of the year, to the North Carolina 23. Two plays later, on third and one at the 14, Lowery ran a pitch sweep to the left and got nothing. On fourth down, O'Donnell sneaked. Nothing. Krivak wasn't happy with the officials' spot, but he was more upset that it even became an issue.

"The game was decided at the 14-yard line in the third quarter," Krivak said. "We could not make a lousy yard. On the toss, we had the end knocked down and we couldn't get upfield. Then we come up short from six inches on a quarterback sneak. It's very frustrating."

If you don't count the 55 yards the Terrapins lost on eight quarterback sacks, the rushing game had a net of 86 yards on 33 carries.

O'Donnell was 15 of 23 for 241 yards, with one touchdown. His one interception came right at the end of the third quarter, and it was his last pass. When the Terrapins got the ball back with 12:13 left, Krivak sent in Dan Henning -- who had started the previous 18 games.

"Neil was very spotty, very average," Krivak said. "Early, I think he was a little rattled. He's a young kid, though . . . .

"Neil had bumped his elbow {in the second quarter}. I just had a feeling, a premonition. Down the stretch, I wanted to go with a guy who had been there before."

O'Donnell, who was there when Maryland rallied to beat Duke last week, said his right elbow was "okay" and he was a bit surprised by the switch.

"That's his {Krivak's} job,"said O'Donnell, who was sacked four times. "I made some mistakes and I completed some good passes."

Henning played the entire fourth quarter, taking several sacks himself but completing eight of 12 passes for 69 yards and a five-yard touchdown to Joines with 3:31 left. Henning, too, said he was slightly surprised by the switch, but would not comment on whether he thought he should start against Penn State.

Asked who would start, Krivak said, "I don't know."

N. Carolina 6 14 0 7 27 Maryland 0 0 7 7 14

NC -- FG Miller 22

NC -- FG Miller 51

NC -- Lewis 21 pass from Maye (Miller kick)

NC -- N. Davis 26 return of blocked punt (Miller kick)

M -- Joines 40 pass from O'Donnell (Plocki kick)

NC -- Lewis 8 pass from Maye (Miller kick)

M -- Joines 5 pass from Henning (Plocki kick)

A -- 35,425

N. Carolina Maryland First downs 17 17 Rushes-yards 54-158 33-31 Passing yards 171 310 Return yards 36 23 Passing 11-19-1 23-35-1 Punts-average 6-40 6-34 Fumbles-lost 5-2 1-1 Penalties-yards 4-40 3-15 Tim

RUSHING -- North Carolina: Starr 18-64, Clark 13-59, Thompson 8-23, Timmons 5-9, Maye 9-2, Benefield 1-1. M

PASSING -- North Carolina: Maye 11-19-1, 171 yards. Maryland: O'Donnell 15-23-1, 241; Henning 8-12-0, 69.

RECEIVING -- North Carolina: Marriott 4-68, Smith 3-55, Lewis 3-40, Jacobs 1-8. Maryland: Edmunds 4-97, Joi