Shaking off some raindrops and a tough loss to Penn State, Joe Krivak yesterday volunteered that he had been given a vote of confidence by the body that matters most: his family.

"It was three to two," he joked. "The dog doesn't get a vote."

Krivak's first season as Maryland's football coach is two games short of complete; what he wants from his team is about what realistic fans expect of him over a longer period of time: consistent good work, with flashes of excellence at meaningful times.

"We've been too inconsistent," he said. "On offense and special teams, and sometimes on defense."

For positives during the 4-5 experience, he said: "How the kids have hung in there, and how the staff has hung in there."

Even though there have been boos for some terrible special teams play and lesser football crimes at Byrd Stadium, Maryland and area fans generally seem patient with Krivak.

It would take something ugly off the field for him to suffer any significant pressure for another couple of years. By that time, the downward turn Maryland was taking before he assumed command had better be reversed.

Before last year, the Terrapins very rarely lost an Atlantic Coast Conference game. Bobby Ross' final team was beaten three times in the league; Krivak's first team has lost twice, going into Saturday's match against Clemson in Death Valley.

League officials love parity; fans hate it. Losing to North Carolina twice in a century is too often for Marylanders; back-to-back losses were as bitter as they were surprising.

Two of the other losses, to Syracuse and North Carolina State, seem less embarrassing in retrospect. Syracuse may well be in contention for the national championship New Year's Day; N.C. State dealt ninth-ranked Clemson its only defeat.

"I thought we had a chance to be a good football team," Krivak said. "That still is possible." A victory against Clemson would be the inspired spurt lacking so far; if that were followed by a win against Vanderbilt on the road, Maryland's 6-5 would improve on the 5-5-1 of a year ago.

When he said "good", Krivak might have been thinking in terms of 6-3 by now. Probably, that assumed more ability from the runners, fewer injuries to their blockers and a quarterback who would be more consistent.

The major concerns about Krivak seem to center on the quality of his staff and the impression that recruiting did not go well the last two years.

Injuries are a convenient excuse; they also are a fact of football life. Syracuse has had almost none of any importance this season; neither did Penn State in winning the national championship last season.

"When Mike Anderson was on the field, we did well," said Krivak, referring to the junior running back no longer available because of the effects of cancer treatment. "He was by far the most productive back we had."

Krivak is more openly forthright than most coaches, and that was evident as he explained where he thought the program ought to be headed.

For logical, and selfish, reasons, he would like for Maryland to resume its series with Navy. Being equally pragmatic, he is glad that home-and-home series with Oklahoma never materialized.

The Sooners were interested last year, he said, "but I couldn't get too excited." Krivak's reasoning: Why should we play the top team when we already meet more than our fair share of top-20s?

"Miami is third," he said of this season's quality opponents. "Syracuse is ninth {actually sixth}; Penn State is 15th and Clemson anywhere from sixth to 10th. How many of those do you have to play a year?"

Krivak did not mention it, but he knows Penn State's schedule lately has included William and Mary (1984), East Carolina (1985 and '86), Cincinnati ('86 and '87) and Bowling Green ('87).

Also, Penn State played seven home games in two of the last three years; Maryland played five, counting one each year in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

Sometimes, the Oklahomas and Penn States schedule opponents to give them an edge in recruiting a particular area. Alabama gives Penn State entre in the South; Maryland would have given the Sooners exposure in the player-rich Mid-Atlantic area.

"We can't pluck a player from Tennessee or Florida {as Penn State has done}," Krivak said. "That's a fact, regardless of how the alumni may feel. Our bread-and-butter is our own area."

Which turned the topic toward Navy. Krivak joins most area fans in hoping that once-intense series resumes.

If Maryland went 5-6 and 4-7, Krivak said slyly, "maybe Navy would look more favorably on us. We've done about everything we possibly can to explain how it's in their best interest, and ours."

Maryland even has a couple of open dates the next two seasons, Krivak said, games with Pitt having been canceled. Krivak adds, "If they {Navy} can play Carolina, they can play us."

The last time Maryland and Navy played was 1965, when Navy won for the second time in three years. An obscene gesture by Maryland's Jerry Fishman the season before generally is credited with the series being discontinued.

Some insist Maryland was getting too close to Army as a must-beat rival for Navy. A generation ago, Navy benefited from more enthusiasm for the military and less for pro football by high school hotshots. Of Maryland, Navy might be saying what Krivak seems to be saying about Oklahoma: Who needs the grief just now?