UNIVERSITY PARK, PA., NOV. 10 -- Penn State continued its 29-year hex over Maryland -- this time with more than a little help from the Terrapins. Two turnovers and a defensive lapse on a fourth-down play gave the No. 21 Nittany Lions momentum, easy points and ultimately a 24-10 victory today.

In losing for the 20th straight time here and for the 32nd time in 34 games in this series, Maryland dropped to 5-5 this season. Its hopes for its first winning season in five years now depend on a victory in next Saturday's season finale at Virginia.

Such an achievement seems unlikely given today's travails. For the third time this season -- the second time on an opening possession -- the Terrapins had an interception returned for a touchdown, Penn State cornerback Leonard Humphries going 74 yards on the sixth play of the game.

Maryland came back to take a 10-7 lead with the chance to increase it before intermission, but Dan Hopson fumbled a punt that was recovered at the Terrapins 38-yard line. Six plays later Craig Fayak kicked a 24-yard field goal to tie the score with 24 seconds left.

"We got together in the locker room and told each other that we controlled the game, that we'd win or lose right now," said Terrapins nose tackle Rick Fleece. "We went back out with the feeling that we weren't going to let them score."

It took less than five minutes for the feeling to go away. Penn State (7-2) took possession at its 20-yard line. On first down, Tony Sacca hit David Daniels on a 46-yard pass play. Fleece sacked Sacca for a five-yard loss on the next play but the junior quarterback passed for 12 yards to Terry Smith and hit Sam Gash for 11 on fourth and four.

That play was an omen of things to come. A 12-yard sack by Jack Bradford knocked Penn State back to the Maryland 30, but on fourth and 21 Sacca made a play-action fake that momentarily froze the Maryland defense, then hit Daniels between cornerback Michael Hollis and safety Mike Thomas for a stunning touchdown.

"I don't understand how stuff like that happens," said Terrapins cornerback Scott Rosen. "Maybe we were thinking that Sacca didn't have the arm because he was throwing into the wind. So you start looking for a draw -- but we still should have gotten there, it wasn't that hard a play."

"It turned the game around," said Hollis. "He ran at me and gave me an outside move then went in. . . . It was all on me -- for the safety to come over {to break up the pass} would have been a Superman play."

Things hardly got better for quarterback Scott Zolak after his shaky start. The senior set a school record for completions in a season (205), breaking the mark of 196 set by Dan Henning in 1986, but he completed only 14 of 37 for a season-low 130 yards.

After completing its first pass of the second half, Maryland misfired on 10 straight attempts, with Zolak deliberately sending many of the passes into the ground to avoid sacks.

After holding Penn State to 90 yards in the opening 30 minutes, the Terrapins yielded 272 in the second half. The Nittany Lions held the ball for nearly 19 minutes.

There was one impressive defensive stand late in the third quarter, when Maryland limited Penn State to just one yard on four straight carries from the 2. However it wasn't enough to change the tide. After taking over, Maryland was only able to gain two yards, forcing a Dan DeArmas punt that was returned to the Terrapins 28.

Six plays later Leroy Thompson ended the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run with four seconds remaining in the third quarter. Although Maryland drove to the Penn State 6-yard line in the game's final five minutes, four incomplete passes left the Terrapins empty handed.

"I think that for the last seven or eight years we've been at the point where we could beat them but you can't give them opportunities and make mistakes because they're going to nail you," said Terrapins Coach Joe Krivak. "To win these games we have to get to the point where we're not hurting ourselves.

"When we talked at halftime we felt like we had to make some things happen in the third quarter. Those things didn't happen, but that's what we {need} to get over the hump against these teams."

With the possible exception of last season's 13-13 tie at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, most of the big plays made in the series with Penn State have come from the Nittany Lions -- sometimes even inadverently.

"We didn't think we could kick the field goal into the wind," said Coach Joe Paterno of the circumstances that led to Daniels's fourth-down touchdown. I didn't particularly want to punt from the 30-yard line so I figured we'll see what we can get done.

"If nothing else, even if we didn't make the 20 yards, they'd be playing loose enough that we could get 12, 14 yards -- it just looked like a percentage call to me."

One that added up to yet another defeat for Maryland.