By midway through the third quarter last night, Maryland fans could toss aside any trepidation they had brought to Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins could too beat up on a team from a lower level of college football that didn't expect much more from the game than a $150,000 check.

Any doubts about the Terrapins allowing Division I-AA Western Carolina to stay dangerously close, as had happened against Temple in the season opener, were erased when cornerback Lewis Sanders ran a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. That lifted Maryland's advantage to 20 points -- and the 51-10 victory made the Catamounts losers to an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the 21st straight time.

"That's a good performance -- I don't care who you're playing," Coach Ron Vanderlinden said.

The most obvious fine performances came from running back LaMont Jordan, who had career bests in yardage (158) and touchdowns (3), and quarterback Calvin McCall, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown and gained 58 yards on eight carries.

So dominant was Maryland that three of its most promising freshmen, running back Bruce Perry, wide receiver Scooter Monroe and quarterback Latrez Harrison, played a lot. Perry had 93 yards on eight carries; Monroe's first catch of his college career produced a 72-yard touchdown.

"We set out to be more aggressive," said right guard Jamie Wu, who was among the offensive linemen Vanderlinden challenged last week to improve.

Jordan was bothered much of the week by a thigh bruise suffered against Temple but was both quick and powerful.

"I think LaMont had something to prove," Vanderlinden said. "I like what I saw in his eyes on the sideline. That's the LaMont we've kind of gotten used to."

The Catamounts actually led, 3-0, although a blunder by punt returner Guilian Gary made it possible.

Midway through the first quarter, a short Western Carolina punt took a backward bounce near the Maryland 20-yard line. Gary should not have fielded it. But he saw an opening and tried to scoop the ball. The opening closed quickly, several Western Carolina tacklers caused a fumble and cornerback Marco Butler recovered it at the 21. Two plays gained a yard and Josh Jones kicked a 37-yard field goal.

Almost immediately, the Terrapins surged 80 yards on seven plays and took a 7-3 lead after Jordan carried free safety Jerrod Boone into the end zone from the Western Carolina 4. The major gains were 16 yards by Gary and a 35-yard McCall run off a fake pitch going to his left.

Two plays later, Western Carolina quarterback Shawn Snyder fumbled the snap and Maryland defensive end Peter Timmins recovered at the Catamounts' 23. Fullback Matt Kalapinski bobbled and then held a short pass from McCall for eight yards and a first down on third and two on the 15 and McCall later scored from the 1.

The defense also set up Maryland's next score, when cornerback Sanders outfought wide receiver Aaron Wright for a long pass and returned the interception 22 yards to the Western Carolina 40.

Jordan gained 12 and 15 yards on consecutive runs, but a holding penalty helped stop the drive and Brian Kopka hit a 25-yard field goal that increased the Terrapins' lead to 16-3 with 4 minutes 42 seconds left before halftime.

With under 30 seconds remaining before dozens of high school bands were to begin a halftime show, McCall lofted a pass down the right sideline from the Maryland 24 that was slightly underthrown. Wide receiver Jason Hatala was able to brake near the Western Carolina 40, grab the ball from cornerback Lamont Ransby and outrun free safety Justin Fryer to the end zone.

"That's something we work on," McCall said. "Me throwing it short and Jason beating his man to it."

The confidence the Terrapins carried into halftime with a 23-3 lead was blunted when Jordan fumbled and Western Carolina recovered at the Maryland 25 early in the third quarter. Two plays later, from the 25, the Catamounts fooled Maryland with a screen pass and tailback Brad Hoover followed two linemen and scored easily.

No problem. Sanders fielded the kickoff, broke free up the middle around the Maryland 35 and outran Ransby into the right side of the end zone. The Terrapins' lead once more was 20 points. Sanders became the fourth Terrapin to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.