BLACKSBURG, VA., OCT. 3 -- Both teams came in 0-3, but, when they left, one thing was certain: there is a big difference between Navy and Virginia Tech.

The Hokies rediscovered their running game, getting a splendid 128-yard, one-touchdown performance from freshman Jon Jeffries, and beat struggling Navy, 31-11, before 35,000 at Lane Stadium.

Virginia Tech, held to minus-one yard in its 35-21 defeat to Syracuse last week, had no problem running through a patchwork Navy defense. The Hokies netted 208 rushing yards (out of 267 total yards for the game), 62 more than than they totaled in their previous three games.

The Hokies were not one dimensional, either, as quarterback Erik Chapman completed six of 10 passes for 59 yards, including a nine-yard scoring toss to Myron Richardson that pushed Virginia Tech out to a 14-3 first half lead.

"When you can run the ball, it makes a big difference in your offense," said Chapman, formerly of DeMatha High School. "We felt we could control the line of scrimmage and we put together some nice drives. There was no need to put the ball up. When you're winning, running the ball works in your favor. I know that was the fastest first half {56 minutes} I've ever seen."

In the first half, each team stuck with its running game. Navy enjoyed success with its wishbone attack, netting 345 yards rushing and totaling 390 net yards. Chuck Smith, moved from tailback to fullback in one of several personnel changes instituted by Coach Elliot Uzelac this week, had 143 yards on 30 carries.

But, as has been the case all season for Navy, the Midshipmen made a couple of critical turnovers and couldn't score when they had the opportunity. Freshman Frank Schenk's 20-yard field goal, Navy's first of the season, gave the Midshipmen their only points until Alton Grizzard completed a fourth-down pass to Carl Jordan for an eight-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the game.

"We played hard but were inconsistent at times both offensively and defensively," Uzelac said. "I was happy with Chuck Smith's play and there was some improvement. But, obviously, the critical turnovers hurt us and that was the ball game."

Before today, Navy had lost six fumbles and suffered three interceptions. Navy's lone fumble today led to Virginia Tech's first touchdown and the two interceptions led to 10 more points.

Navy quarterback John Nobers (two of nine for 32 yards and 73 yards rushing on 19 carries) fumbled an attempted handoff at the Virginia Tech 32 and Virginia Tech's Scott Hill fell on the loose ball midway in the opening quarter.

Jeffries and Ernie Jones alternated carries until Sean Donnelly burst up the middle for 10 yards to cap the 10-play, 64 yard drive. Chris Kinzer's kick made it 7-0 with 3:53 to play in the period.

Smith's 29- and 18-yard runs helped Navy reach the Virginia Tech 3, but the Hokies held and Schenk came on to kick his field goal to make it 7-3 with 12:03 left in the half.

Virginia Tech then set off on an 18-play drive that used 8 1/2 minutes and ended when a scrambling Chapman found Richardson alone for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Navy defender Larry Dickinson slipped and fell and was still on the ground when Richardson caught the ball, pushing the lead to 14-3 with 3:33 left in the period.

"The play was an audible and Myron didn't hear it," Chapman said. "He {Dickinson} was right with him until he fell."

A 52-yard field goal try by Schenk was short as the half ended.

A 28-yard kickoff return by Jeffries to open the second half was nullified by a penalty and Virginia Tech began at its 23. Two runs and a 15-yard completion from Chapman to Steve Johnson moved the ball to the 44. On first and 10, the 5-foot-10, 199-pound Jeffries, also from DeMatha, found running room up the middle. He bounced off two Navy players, faked another and raced into the end zone for his second touchdown of the year (the other came on a kickoff return) and only the second rushing touchdown by Virginia Tech this season.

"That broke our backs," Navy lineman Mike Musser said.

"I don't remember what exactly happened. I know I was running free," said Jeffries, Virginia Tech's leading rusher this year with 172 yards on 31 attempts. "We had come close to breaking a couple of runs earlier. I know if you keep running hard and hitting the hole, something will give."

Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said he cut down the number of running plays from 14 to seven to keep the offense simple.

"I was concerned because we had not been running the ball very well," Beamer said. "I was impressed early because we were able to move the ball, something we hadn't done much of. We wanted to mix things up but we didn't have to throw much. We needed one of our backs to break tackles and make the big play and J.J. {Jeffries} did that today. He is very explosive and is going to get better and better.

"Navy played well in spots but hurt itself with turnovers. Our defense gave up a lot of yards but not many points. And that's what counts."

Leading, 17-3, Virginia Tech seemed content to allow Navy to play out the clock. Each time the Midshipmen threatened to get back in the game, they would suffer some misfortune: overthrowing open receivers, getting stacked up for no gain on fourth and one.

"Small technical mistakes hurt us," Jordan said.

Navy 0 3 0 8 11 Virginia Tech 7 7 7 10 31

VT -- Donnelly 10 run (Kinzer kick)

N -- Schenk FG 20

VT -- Richardson 9 pass from Chapman (Kinzer kick)

VT -- Jeffries 56 run (Kinzer kick)

VT -- Kinzer FG 39

VT -- Cockrell 90 interception return (Kinzer kick)

N -- Jordan 8 pass from Grizzard (Mosher pass from Grizzard)

A -- 35,000

Navy Virginia Tech First downs 24 15 Rushes-yards 70-345 43-208 Passing yards 45 59 Return yards 22 123 Passing 4-18-2 6-10-1 Punts-average 3-33 4-36 Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-0 Penalties-yards 2-15 4-40 Time

RUSHING -- Navy: C. Smith 30-143, Nobers 19-73, Grizzard 8-51, Pangrazio 4-40, Venezia 2-17, Bradley 4-9, H

PASSING -- Navy: Nobers 2-9-1, 32 yards, Grizzard 2-9-1, 13. Virginia Tech: Chapman 6-10-1, 59.

RECEIVING -- Navy: Jordan 2-28, Neumann 1-12, Holl 1-5. Virginia Tech: Richardson 4-38, Ste. Johnson 1-15,