Maryland and Virginia have followed predictable paths this season, the Cavaliers trampling everyone in their wake, the Terrapins going down to the wire to determine victory or defeat.

Both stayed true to form on Saturday. Virginia lived up to its No. 10 ranking, dominating Duke, 59-0. Maryland played sluggishly all day but got a reprieve when N.C. State tailback Aubrey Shaw fumbled with 1:22 remaining. The miscue led to a 25-yard Dan DeArmas field goal with 11 seconds left that gave the Terrapins a 13-12 win at Byrd Stadium.

That wasn't the only fantastic finish among area teams. Howard improved to 3-0 by beating South Carolina State and former coach Willie Jeffries, 23-20, in overtime. The Bison sealed the victory with an interception by Walter Price four plays after Gary Mossop hit a 20-yard field goal.

Navy, with a goal of going 6-0 at home, won for the second time in two tries in Annapolis, using a pair of fourth-quarter field goals by Frank Schenk to defeat Villanova, 23-21.

Maryland (3-1, 1-1 ACC) equaled its win total of a year ago and matched the school's best start since 1986. The Terrapins lost by one point to Clemson and won by seven, four and one. "I don't think it's going to get any different -- every week it's going to be a dogfight up to our ears," said Coach Joe Krivak.

Maryland appeared destined to suffer a second consecutive frustrating loss when Scott Zolak threw his fourth interception with 1:27 remaining. The play was typical of a sputtering offense that made just 12 first downs over three quarters and gained 41 yards rushing for the afternoon.

However, Shaw's fumble, recovered by defensive back Mike Thomas, gave Maryland another chance.

"We knew if we got the offense the ball back that one last time they'd score," said defensive tackle Lubo Zizakovic, who blocked an extra-point try and field-goal attempt. "When we went back on the field we just kept telling ourselves that it wasn't over. They weren't going to be able to kill the clock like Clemson did because we had timeouts left. We just had to stop them.

"The last three years we've had so many close games and wound up on the losing end and I didn't feel too good about last week either, but {on the fumble} there were too many black shirts around the ball -- I knew it had to be ours."

As much as it might rankle Coach George Welsh to hear it, there are a growing number of people who wonder if Virginia will play a close game all season. With an offense that averages 535 yards a game and a first-team defense that has allowed just one touchdown, the Cavaliers have taken their first four games by an average score of 46-8.

Although the win seemed to settle once and for all the question of who was the ACC's true 1989 champion (Virginia and Duke shared first place last year), Welsh allowed that the Cavaliers weren't "especially sharp. They didn't want to tackle us -- I can't control that. . . . I hope we don't think we can just show up and win."

Victory is usually made simpler with turnovers, and the Blue Devils played the compliant hosts, with four lost fumbles and three interceptions.

Even when Duke didn't give the ball away, it still met with disaster. After receiving a screen pass from Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore, wide receiver Herman Moore momentarily began running in the wrong direction. Even after he righted himself, the lanky senior still looked confused, stumbling over defenders and doing a full 360-degree spin before heading into the end zone on a 36-yard scoring play.

"Certain plays, we just happened to score," he said.

Despite the hoopla over a new-found passing attack under new coach George Chaump, Navy (2-1) had to rely on its running to secure the victory over Villanova. Senior Alton Grizzard, who became the Academy's all-time total offense leader (4,553 yards), threw for just 88 yards but added 71 rushing, part of the Midshipmen's 253-yard effort.

"We resorted to the good old tough tactics of football and we did it because we had to," said Chaump.

Navy led by 14-0, but Villanova rallied behind 5-foot-7 Tom Columbo (23 of 33 for 287 yards) to take a 21-17 lead into the final period. However, Schenk hit field goals of 36 and 37 yards -- the latter with 5:52 remaining -- to provide victory.

Howard hadn't won at South Carolina State since 1973. A six-game winning streak, built over two seasons, also was on the line in the contest against Jeffries, who left the Bison after the 1988 season.

Mossop was one of the players he had recruited. The former high school soccer player took advantage of the eight-year, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rule that instituted the overtime, in which each team is given possession on the opposition's 25-yard line. Teams can earn first downs, moving the ball until they score, or lose it on downs or a turnover.

Taking the first possession, the Bison drove to the 2 before Mossop made his kick. S.C. State gained four yards on three plays but, after having an extra point and field goal blocked late in regulation, decided to go for a first down, with Price making his interception.

"It's special to play against all those players that you recruited," said Jeffries. "It is difficult when they beat you."