BALTIMORE -- Maryland surely is the only college involved in a football rivalry it thinks might get reversed by wearing black.

Out trotted the Terrapins Saturday against Penn State with a color scheme unseen in more than 40 years. For a while in Memorial Stadium, they had an offense as bold.

A dramatic change in dress has helped Notre Dame, among others, in pivotal games over the years. Or seemed to. Better and more motivated players inside those new duds tends to help lots more.

All of this influenced the decision, first considered about a month ago, to try to snap that 22-game losing streak by slipping into black jerseys with white numbers. The last time anyone remembered such a style was the mid-'40s, when Bear Bryant was the coach.

Black got the Terrapins excited; black also was their mood, as usual, at game's end.

"Same old show," a veteran Marylander said when a final chance at victory was foiled a few seconds after it became possible.

Over the years, these games mostly have ended with the Terrapins getting achingly close to winning, with matters turning on bizarre twists. That all-too-familiar script played once more, and on a divot-dotted field that looked more like a hacker's driving range.

The first two times it had the ball, Maryland passed the Lions silly. This was fine strategy, considering the Terrapins often run at a turtle's pace and the Lions got strafed a couple of weeks ago by Syracuse.

Trouble was, the Terrapins' best deeds would end with mild frustration; when their effort merely was good, the outcome was disastrous.

Those with deep affection for Coach Joe Krivak will bolt the windows to his second-story office when he realizes this statistic: Maryland ran 29 plays to get two field goals and a 6-0 advantage early in the second quarter; one interception a few minutes later, and Penn State had the lead for keeps.

What will keep leaping into the minds of Maryland players, coaches and fans will be the work ethic smashed to smithereens. Twenty-nine plays were overcome by one.

That was the first half; the second half was worse.

The essence of this 21-16 affair, Maryland's terrific fight that ended in frustration and Penn State's stout play when that was vital, came about midway through the third quarter.

Maryland had third-and-goal from the Lions 3. A touchdown would narrow the Lions' lead to two points at worst. A two-point conversion would tie the game at 14-14.

The Terrapins decided a bootleg left by quarterback Neil O'Donnell would fetch that touchdown, and also coax momentum to their side of the field.

The way it was doodled in the playbook, and executed in practice, O'Donnell would fake a handoff up the middle. While this bit of deception was luring the Lions inside, he would tippy-toe, all by his lonesome, into the end zone.

Instead of being deceptive, Maryland telegraphed its punch. Or so it seemed to, Brian Chizmar, who plays a position Penn State appropriately calls Hero.

"I could see it," he said. "I felt a rollout was coming. We had watched a lot of film, so I had seen it before. I could tell by watching his eyes, and I just went after him."

Chizmar blitzed directly to the position he felt O'Donnell would get to in a step or so. Sure enough, the quarterback stepped left -- and into Chizmar's waiting arms.

Had Chizmar cared to, he could have said to the startled O'Donnell: "What took you so long?"

"I didn't think the strong safety would come that hard," O'Donnell said. "If I'd known that, I'd have gotten out of the play. It was a good call by Penn State."

"Maybe I went to the well once too often on that play," Krivak admitted.

The snowball, downhill, gathered speed. The Terrapins' series stopped not with a touchdown, as anticipated, but without any points at all. Dan Plocki's field goal, from the 25-yard line, sailed right.

O'Donnell arrived on the sideline after being buried by Chizmar with more than ego bruised. His left shoulder was hurting so much he eventually had to give way to Dan Henning.

"A pretty good shot," he said.

Henning immediately was heroic. Somehow, on fourth-and-goal from the Penn State 17, he hit James Milling with the touchdown pass that gave Maryland hope.

When Penn State botched a punt from near midfield a short time later, Henning had a chance for a comeback double: his, from his demotion to backup, and the team's.

Unfortunately, a Lions linebacker stepped in the way of a pass Henning thought would end in the hands of a Maryland running back. One pass; one interception.

Terrapins sentiment was best expressed by a longtime fan and the long-suffering Henning. Said the fan: "Penn State's small, and not very athletic." He meant that the Lions were ripe for plucking.

Henning was asked how frustrating this loss was.

"Very," he said. The glare of his eyes was even more emphatic.