NEWARK, DEL., NOV. 14 -- Navy defeated Delaware, 31-22, today before 23,040, the fourth-largest crowd in Delaware Stadium history. And it was simple.

"Football is a very simple game," Navy defensive coordinator Milan Vooletich said. "You work within the structure of the offense and the defense and carry out your assignments, good things are going to happen."

Navy's wishbone offense is structured to run. Led by senior halfback Don Holl, who rushed for career highs of 130 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, and freshman quarterback Alton Grizzard, who had 92 yards on 23 carries, the Midshipmen ran the ball 76 times for 347 yards.

Navy's defense this week was designed to stop Delaware's wing-T offense, which had been averaging 380 yards and 29 points per game. Led by senior safety Mike Marchildon, who made two interceptions, recovered one fumble and broke up three passes, and sophomore cornerback Larry Dickinson, who made two interceptions, the Midshipmen (2-8) forced five turnovers and held Delaware (4-6) to 249 yards total offense before an 80-yard touchdown drive in the game's final minute.

"Everything takes time," Vooletich said. "They're finally at a point where they are latching on to the things we're asking them to do."

And not a moment too soon.

"I felt like this was a critical game for us. Every day this week I made clear to them how critical it was," Coach Elliot Uzelac said. "It was important for us to win so we could be ready to prepare for Army, and it was important to the rest of our future here."

You see, the Midshipmen feel they really play two seasons. The regular one ended today. The real one ends three weeks from today at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

"This was pretty much our last game of the season," junior tight end Kevin Voss said. "Army's something special."

And, after losses to the Cadets two of the last three years and a 1987 season that could still end up as the Navy's worst since 1948, a victory against Army would be especially special for the Midshipmen.

"Games like this one today give us something to build on for the future," Vooletich said.

Navy's only sour note was that Chuck Smith reinjured the knee that had kept him out of four games. He will be examined Sunday, with a determination about his availability for the Army game expected then.

Once again Grizzard played well. His 473 rushing yards is the best single-season total by a Navy quarterback (John Cartwright had 447 in 1967).

Today, however, Grizzard's passing gave Navy a dimension it had not had this season. He attempted just nine passes, but five were complete for 117 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown -- Navy's longest pass play since 1978.

"I told you we would pass the ball more as the young man got better at it and got a better handle on the offense," Uzelac said.

The passing caught and kept the Blue Hens off balance from the start. After holding Delaware to 19 yards and one first down on its first two possessions, the Midshipmen took over after a punt at their 24.

Three running plays set up a first down at the 37. Grizzard faked an option handoff and threw along the left sideline to flanker Don Hughes, who was 10 yards behind Delaware's defense. Hughes caught the ball near the Blue Hens' 40 and won a race to the end zone.

"We saw the way their cornerback kept supporting {against the run}," Grizzard said. "When he leaves our guy free like that, you've gotta throw to him. I mean, it's ridiculous not to."

The Blue Hens then drove 75 yards in 12 plays to make it 7-7 on David Sierer's one-yard quarterback sneak.

Navy regained the lead on a 20-yard field goal by Ted Fundoukos. It was his 10th consecutive successful attempt, tying Steve Fehr's school record set in 1980.

Navy held the Blue Hens on three plays on each of their next two possessions. Navy's next two possessions turned the game.

Starting at its 20, Navy had a 16-play drive lasting 5:12 and ending in Holl's three-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left in the half.

Then, 5:18 into the second half, Holl scored on a fourth-down dive from inside Delaware's 1 to conclude a 12-play, 71-yard drive that started with the second-half kickoff.

After Delaware closed to 24-14 with an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive on its next possession, Navy's defense stiffened. The Blue Hens' next two possessions ended in a punt and an interception that set up Holl's third touchdown, another fourth-down dive that made it 31-14 with 5:11 left in the game.

"It's hard to watch when your team is losing, but it's even harder when you're hurt and there's nothing you can do," said Holl, who was slated to be converted from running back to defensive back when he developed recurrences of a stress fracture in his left foot that kept him out of four games this season. "It was nice."

It also was the perfect ending to a week that began with Holl becoming engaged.

"I'm averaging three touchdowns a game since I got engaged," Holl said. "I should have gotten engaged before the season started."

Navy 7 10 7 7 31 Delaware 7 0 7 8 22

N -- Hughes 63 pass from Grizzard (Fundoukos kick)

D -- Sierer 1 run (O'Brien kick)

N -- FG Fundoukos 20

N -- Holl 3 run (Fundoukos kick)

N -- Holl 1 run (Fundoukos kick)

D -- Lawn 2 pass from Sierer (O'Brien kick)

N -- Holl 2 run (Fundoukos kick)

D -- Knight 13 pass from McCoy (Knight pass from McCoy)

A -- 23,040.

Navy Delaware First downs 28 20 Rushes-yards 76-347 32-128 Passing yards 117 201 Return yards 51 5 Passing 5-10-0 16-34-4 Punts-average 6-38 5-42 Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-1 Penalties-yards 10-81 4-30 Time

RUSHING -- Navy: Holl 21-130, Grizzard 23-92, Bradley 18-71, Brown 9-26. Delaware: Holmes 7-53, Lanham 7-37

PASSING -- Navy: Grizzard 5-9-0, 117 yards, Nobers 0-1-0, 0. Delaware: Sierer 10-21-3, 104, McCoy 6-13-1, 9

RECEIVING -- Navy: Hughes 2-73, Voss 2-29. Delaware: Anderson 5-87, Lanham 3-20, Panasuk 2-23, Lawn 2-10, K