Maryland--School record for pass catches in a game broken by Frank Wycheck vs. Virginia Tech belonged to John Tice, not Mike Tice. (Published 9/6/90)

Were it not for the piece of jewelry in his left ear that bears his jersey number, 22 -- an impulsive tribute of sorts to Brian Bosworth -- there would be no tangible sign Frank Wycheck has become a football hero and genuine big man on the Maryland campus following his school-record 14 receptions (for 106 yards) in the 20-13 season opening win over Virginia Tech.

Wycheck's voice, nothing more than a breathy hush, certainly wouldn't give it away.

"If I get open again, it would be good, but I don't want people to expect me to catch 14 passes every game," said Wycheck, who added he would just as soon work on improving his blocking and pass protection.

"Like this week {Saturday at West Virginia}, I know it will be different. They'll know about me and may try to stop me more, but that will only make it better for the whole offense. I'll gladly sacrifice myself for our offense."

Yesterday, toting a spiral notebook and paperback copies of Ibsen's "A Doll's House" and "The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles" around campus on the first day of classes, the redshirt freshman looked and sounded like a diligent student. It was a different image from a week ago, when an eligibility snafu threatened to make him persona non grata in both academic and athletic circles.

Last Tuesday, Wycheck discovered that his C grade in a recreation and leisure class had left him two-thousandths of a point below Maryland's required 1.78 grade-point average. He filed and won an appeal the next day, but no one was certain how the incident would affect his play.

"You knew he was a good player and that he was in the right spot, but you don't know what something like that is going to do to him," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak said after Wycheck's performance. "You never know, never know what's going through a person's mind."

The irony of the situation was that Wycheck twice was named a first-team all-academic performer at Archbishop Ryan High in Philadelphia, so neither he nor the Maryland coaches ever expected him to become a near-casualty to academics in college.

However, said tight end coach Paul Tortorella: "It's a big transition when you come into school as a freshman. Some guys take for granted that it's going to be just like high school."

Such was the case with Wycheck, who spent his first semester in College Park going to class whenever he felt like it -- which wasn't very often.

"I've tried telling a couple of the kids who've come in to get on top of things in the first semester. They come in thinking it's just like high school, but it's not," Wycheck said. "I just blew a lot of things off in the first semester. I tried to do a lot of the things that I had gotten away with in high school, but instead I got into a hole and I've been fighting to climb over the top ever since."

That hasn't been the case on the field. After sitting out last season, Wycheck expected to compete for the starting fullback spot this year. However, when Krivak and his staff committed to the one-back offense during the offseason, the result was a perfect mesh of player and position.

Saturday, the formula became complete when the Hokies opened the game using a defense designed more to stop Maryland's running game and wide receivers than Wycheck at H-back.

"We thought they would try to shut down the wideouts and, if they did that, we'd be willing to take a chance on Frank's athletic ability against their linebackers and that's what happened," said Tortorella.

"That's the thing about this offense: Frank's a big part of it, but so is everyone else. You just take what the defense gives. He could catch three passes next week, but we could still win."

Wycheck scored a touchdown and tied Mike Tice's school record of 11 receptions in the first half of play. After intermission, the Hokies appeared more interested in stopping him, having free safety Damien Russell shadow the H-back.

But that left other holes, which Maryland exploited. Tight end Bret Boehly caught three passes for 54 yards. And the crease in which quarterback Scott Zolak found wide receiver Gene Thomas for the game-winning 51-yard touchdown pass may have been open because of Russell's interest in Wycheck, who was lined up on the other side of the field.

"A couple of times, I was just the release guy and Scott just sort of found me," Wycheck said. "I never thought that I was having that great a game. At the end of the game, someone told me that I had set a record. I guess I thought it was pretty good. It was an honor to break Mike Tice's record."

Wycheck added that his effort "might be a fluke," and he is more concerned with things like not letting his teammates down and becoming the all-round player that he considers himself.

"That's how he really is," said Tortorella. "He's just a nice, shy kid."

"I'm confident. I know what I can do on the field. I don't need to talk about it," Wycheck said. "I don't get caught up in things like talking on the field."

But that earring?

"It was a gift from a friend," he said. "It's just one of those things. People probably look at me and say: 'Look at that wild kid. He must be into the latest fashions.'

"I just like it."