BALTIMORE, NOV. 7 -- They are plain to the point of being really annoying, these Penn State Nittany Lions. They are plain in their dress, they are plain in their football. They win the old-fashioned way: good blocking, good tackling and, most of all, no mistakes.

Penn State has used this antiquated theory to win a lot of games over the years, and today they won their 23rd straight from Maryland by doing the same thing.

"They can be beat," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak said, "but you've got to beat them. They don't beat themselves. And I think that's what happened out there today. We made a couple very criticial mistakes."

And Penn State capitalized. The Nittany Lions defense took enough air out of Maryland's passing attack, turning mistakes into points and holding the Terrapins to fewer points than they would have liked.

Twice Maryland got inside the Penn State 10-yard line in the first half, and twice it only got field goals. Maryland's running game is weak, and it becomes a terrible liability inside the 5. If you're interested in knowing what Krivak wants for Christmas, it's a running back who stands 6 feet 2 or 6-3, weighs 230 pounds and runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. Because he doesn't have the big, fast back, he is forced to pass, but that becomes more difficult in close.

"Those three levels {of pass patterns} can't develop sometimes when you get down close to the goal line," Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said. "We spent a lot of time on that and our coaches did a great job of preparing our kids for that. Three points is a lot better than seven, obviously."

Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky spent about 70 percent of this week's practice working on defending the pass, according to cornerback Dwayne Downing. And Downing had one of the two Nittany Lions' interceptions.

Maryland quarterback Neil O'Donnell is only a redshirt sophomore, and today he started his second game. He will probably learn to look away from the receiver he intends to throw to, but he didn't today. With Maryland ahead, 6-0, in the second quarter, O'Donnell dropped back to pass and looked directly at tight end Ferrell Edmunds. And Downing, playing cornerback on that side, watched O'Donnell watch Edmunds.

"He was looking at the tight end the whole time," Downing said. "And the tight end ran a simple out."

Said O'Donnell, "I thought I could hit Ferrell. But the guy made a good break on the ball."

Pete Giftopoulous did not make any good moves once he got the ball, but by then he had done his job. The Penn State linebacker had the second interception, which came with just over two minutes left in the game and sealed the win for the Nittany Lions.