Howard, Maryland and Navy all lost last weekend, causing each team to step back and regroup, while Virginia looks ahead to a showdown with Georgia Tech.

The Terrapins planned to use their week off to allow some old wounds to heal, celebrate their first winning season in five years and prepare for a final two games that would have propelled them into a bowl.

However, in the aftermath of Saturday's 34-10 loss to North Carolina, the biggest priority this week is repairing battered psyches.

"This loss will make it tough to get up for those games {against Penn State and Virginia}, but we have to do it," said nose tackle Rick Fleece. "I'm not saying that we can't win those games. . . . we have to if we want to have a successful season."

Fleece called the defeat the most disappointing in five seasons. By any account, it was a major setback for the Terrapins (5-4 overall and 3-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), largely because of what was lost along with the game.

They can still finish above .500 but they'll have to beat either a hot Nittany Lions squad or the nation's top-ranked team to do so. In order to keep any bowl hopes remotely alive, Maryland would have to win both games.

"If we're supposed to go to a bowl, we'll win the games," said linebacker Jack Bradford. "If we don't win, we aren't supposed to go. But now is the time where we sit back and look at each other and decide who's going to step up and be a leader and lead this team."

It might be too late. A postseason invitation isn't likely based on Saturday's performance. Lucky to be clinging to a 10-9 halftime lead, the Terrapins nearly broke down after intermission, gaining just 47 yards.

"I don't think we quit; we just got whipped," said quarterback Scott Zolak, who was 15 of 38 and threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

"We knew what was at stake. Everybody knew what was at stake. We didn't come in here expecting to lose; and nobody was cocky -- nobody deserved to be -- we don't know what happened."

Howard wishes it did have on off week this week. After winning its first five games this season and extending a two-year winning streak to nine, it has lost three straight. Saturday night's 17-7 loss at Towson State hurt more than the other two defeats because Towson State had lost eight straight games.

"We have hit rock bottom," said Coach Steve Wilson. "But we will reload."

Wilson said he will carefully review Howard's quarterback situation this week. Towson intercepted Donald Carr five times, twice inside Towson's 5-yard line, giving Howard 15 turnovers in its three losses.

"We are not getting the job done," said Wilson. "I didn't feel playing musical chairs with our quarterbacks was the way to get it done for this game. We will know more and make some decisions after we see the films."

Navy's dreams of a first winning season since 1982 were dealt a severe blow when James Madison, a Division I-AA school, spoiled homecoming at Annapolis, 16-7.

The Dukes (5-3) sacked Alton Grizzard and Gary McIntosh nine times and left Navy fans to wonder how the Midshipmen (3-4) can possibly do anything offensively Saturday against Notre Dame at Giants Stadium.

Grizzard completed 15 of 28 passes for 144 yards, while losing 45 yards on seven sacks. McIntosh, who relieved in the fourth quarter, completed three of 12 for 59 yards and lost 11 on two sacks.

Top-ranked Virginia (7-0, 4-0 ACC) used its second October off-week to begin preparing for No. 16 Georgia Tech, which will face the Cavaliers Saturday in Charlottesville after defeating Duke, 48-31. A victory would give Virginia its first outright ACC title in the program's history and set a school record for the best start ever.

Staff writers Robert Fachet and Neil H. Greenberger and special correspondent Pete Williams contributed to this report.