SAN MARCOS, TEXAS -- Ten minutes and 33 seconds into the first quarter of the first preseason game, the booing began.

Welcome back to the NFL, Jack Pardee.

His honeymoon with the Houston Oilers' fans didn't exactly come to a grinding halt in the team's 34-10 loss to Detroit in the preseason opener Aug. 9, but the game did serve as a rather rude wakeup call.

Yes, Jack, you're still coaching in the Astrodome but, no, Jack, this isn't the Southwest Conference and, no, Jack, just because the opponents are draped in blue and silver doesn't mean you're playing the Rice Owls.

"We're going to be all right," said Pardee, looking only slightly shell-shocked.

In reality, the Oilers probably will be all right. They lost their second preseason test, 13-10, to the New York Giants and hope to get their first win under their belts when they play at Minnesota today at 1 p.m. (WUSA-TV-9, WBAL-TV-11). And whatever their final record, the Oilers will bear a different look than they sported under Jerry Glanville. No longer as nasty as they want to be, these Oilers actually helped Lions' players up after making tackles. No late hits, no unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Under Pardee, the "House of Pain" has gone in for some drastic remodeling.

"I'm not saying anything about what Jerry did, but I don't want a bunch of penalties. I want a good, tough team, not a penalized team," said Pardee. "I played the game 15 years. I know there's a fine line. You know even at full speed when to hit and when to pull up. You can't tell me otherwise. I've been in that situation too many times.

"The judgment of a player just cannot hurt a team's chances. They've got to be team players. A teammate can't steal from a teammate whether you're stealing a chance to win, his time, energy, effort or anything else. You've just got to make good decisions. Hit as long as it's legal . . . and then don't."

Fans at the Oilers' first game could see that Pardee had changed the club's style. Cornerback Richard Johnson said it has been a welcome change.

"It's a different attitude, a different behavior style. I think we'll be a better team," Johnson said. "I think things had gotten out of hand. It was okay at first, it got us rolling, but we have matured and we need to go to another level. I don't think that behavior style was going to get us there. He {Glanville} had a bit part in it, but I wouldn't totally blame it on him. Jack's the kind of coach that allows you to play, and if you lose, the other team is going to beat you, you're not going to beat yourselves."

Until the Oilers start losing regular-season games in the manner they lost to Detroit, Pardee's extreme low-key approach will serve him well in a town that had grown tired of Glanville's bluster.

"There have been a lot of positive things, but I take it for what it is," Pardee said. "I appreciate the interest in the Oilers. They want to turn back to the days of 'Luv Ya, Blue' and all the excitement around the city. We want that, too. But we've got to go out and win some games."

And like him or not, Glanville did win in Houston. The Oilers may have had some disappointments in the playoffs, but they did make three consecutive postseason trips. How many other clubs can say that? Only San Francisco, Minnesota and Cleveland.

So there is some pressure on Pardee to take this team farther, but he at least pretends not to face it.

"I don't really care what's happened in the past. I worry about what's going to happen in the future," he said. "I've coached the same way ever since I've been a coach. I hope players accept me the way I am because I accept players for what they are and try to use them to the best of their abilities. I don't worry about what Jerry did or what they did."

Pardee said he never went to an Oilers game during his three years as the Cougars' coach. "I lived in the city, followed them some, watched them on the news. But in college, Sunday's a busy day," he said.

Yet he knew enough about the team to realize that he would commit to the four-wide receiver Run-and-Shoot offense that had given him so much success with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL and with the University of Houston. There are no tight ends in the Oilers' camp, no chance of turning back. As Pardee said after the loss to Detroit, "We don't have another system to throw at them. We'll get this one down.

"They'd been doing similar things with June Jones {as quarterbacks coach, now in Detroit}. One of the hardest positions to find in the NFL is a good tight end. It wasn't a real strength of this team. Now if we'd been sitting here with {Philadelphia's} Keith Jackson, we'd probably taken a little different thinking."

It still seems so incongruous -- Pardee, a no-nonsense blue-collar type, reared under Bear Bryant, coaching an offense straight out of Arenaball.

"Back in my college days, we were running split-T, all based on making three and a half yards every time we snapped the ball. It's changed a little bit from that," Pardee said. "It's changed so much we run more like a drastic two-minute offense, but we do it the whole game. But I was just looking for a way to move the football {with the Gamblers}.

"When I left the Redskins {after the 1980 season}, I went to Don Coryell {in San Diego}) as defensive coordinator, and they were doing similar things to the Run-and-Shoot, only with a tight end. It can tire a defense out. The traditionalists probably think what we do is a gimmick and that it won't work. I don't care if they think that, I hope they keep on. I hope they don't learn any more about it. It is a sound system."

To emphasize his point, Pardee looks to last year's NCAA statistics which showed his Cougars as the No. 1 team in the nation in turnover margin. Their plus-28 figure was well ahead of Clemson's plus-20.

"The old theory that if you throw, three things can happen and two of them are bad -- that old cliche probably set football back for years," Pardee said. "There's no reason for those bad things to happen. Shoot, you can fumble a ball on a running play.

"Coaches want to coach something they know and understand. The first thing you tend to say when you don't know about something is that it won't work. The quarterback can't be careless in this offense, but there's no sense to having bad plays."

Getting rid of offensive mistakes probably won't be as easy for Pardee as doing away with the late hits on defense. But Oilers' fans, having overdosed on the excesses of the last coaching regime, will gladly watch him try.