On the the day Maryland running back Troy Jackson gained 89 yards before leaving with an injury at Michigan three weeks ago, his grandmother was listening to the game on a car radio in the driveway and his mother was glued to the telephone to await word on his health.

An exciting day to be sure, but nothing to compare to last Saturday, when both were present at Byrd Stadium to watch Jackson rush for a career-high 152 yards in the Terrapins' 41-13 victory over Wake Forest.

"My grandmother couldn't get any reception on the radio inside and then my Mom had heard that I'd hurt my neck so she wasn't going to move until I called to tell her that I was okay," Jackson said yesterday. "I was all excited that day too because playing in a place like Michigan is something that you dream about.

"I remember going there and standing in the end zone and just looking at all the people. I couldn't believe I was there, but even though there weren't as many people, this was better. My family and everyone I care about were there and I think that helps bring out the best in you."

Jackson also gained a bit of inspiration from a pair of former peewee football teammates, Wake Forest's Steven Ainsworth and Deke Lassiter. Before the game, the two approached Jackson on the field and told him that he should have stayed in their hometown of Williamsburg because he wasn't going to have any success against the Demon Deacons.

Jackson had other ideas. He carried 27 times, 15 in the first half. He gained less than five yards just five times -- one of them a two-yard touchdown run.

As the yardage kept piling up, Jackson's teammates turned into human calculators, keeping the junior running back informed of his output. "After the first series someone told me I had 49 yards, then in the second quarter Steve Ingram said I had 110," Jackson said. "Five minutes later the scoreboard flashed that I had 111. I really did think he had a calculator on the bench with him."

Jackson's total was the highest for a Maryland back in four years, but the postgame glow wore off quickly, which suited him just fine. The Tuesday after Maryland games usually is spent explaining what went wrong to classmates or being singled out by Mrs. Cook in nutrition class. Yesterday, however, there was only blissful silence.

"It's been just like any other game -- no, better because Mrs. Cook didn't say anything," Jackson said. "That's embarrassing because you're thinking the other students hate athletes anyway, and I like laying low."

That wasn't particularly hard to do during Jackson's first two seasons. He did not carry the ball at all his freshman year and only saw sporadic duty in 1989, rushing 22 times for 110 yards.

Even more depressing to the Maryland coaches was the fact that Jackson wasn't distinguishing himself on the practice field either. That was one reason the staff pushed so hard to keep freshman Mark Mason, instead of redshirting him.

"Troy had been a question mark because of his practice habits," said assistant coach Tony Whittlesey. "I think he's enjoying football now but I don't know if he ever did before. Then again he wasn't really in our plans until now and when that happens you can get sloppy.

"Where he was inconsistent in the past, this year he's been good all the time. I haven't had to get on him once. When we practice we talk about how hard we want to go and how much we want to get done and he's done it all the time."

Jackson isn't at the point where he's the first player to hit the practice field each day, but he does recognize the correlation between his workouts during the week and his output on Saturday.

"I won't try to live up to last week even though I know I can do it consistently. But I have to practice -- if I can practice hard I'll have a good game," he said. "After the Michigan game I had hurt my back and my knee and I couldn't practice, then I came out against Georgia Tech and played {badly}.

"The same thing before the Clemson game. I couldn't practice hard and I had a bad game. But every day I've been healthy I've practiced hard and that picks up my teammates too. If I'm out there working hard they can't slack off at all."

Though he leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in carries, Jackson can't slack off himself. After all, even with his big day, Maryland still ranks last in the league in rushing yardage per game with 82. If that figure doesn't continue to rise, there is always the chance he could find himself sitting behind Darren Colvin, Andre Vaughn or Mason.

"There really isn't a sense of competition between us though because we're all in the same boat -- whenever people talk about our lack of a running game they're talking about all of us," Jackson said. "But we all really pull for each other; when I'm in the game, the only voice I hear is Mark Mason's.

"He runs his mouth a mile a minute and he's always yelling at me. I just want to say, 'Hey, leave me alone.' "

But if Jackson continues to perform the way he did last Saturday, that is not likely to happen.