ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 22 -- Its gimmickry going nowhere, Navy went back to basics today. Grinding out 253 rushing yards, the Midshipmen used two fourth-quarter field goals by Frank Schenk to record a 23-21 victory over Villanova.

"That's the least passing yards {88} I've had in years," said Coach George Chaump. "Today we resorted to the good old tough tactics of football, and we did it because we had to."

Quarterback Alton Grizzard became Navy's all-time total offense leader with 4,553 yards, yet he accounted for a mere 159 today, with 71 coming on the ground. Afterward, he received an 'N' bathrobe from his roommate, Dominic Flis, a reserve senior fullback who was more deserving of accolades on this strange afternoon that began under lights amid rain and fog and concluded in bright sunshine.

Until today, Flis had carried the ball only twice in his Navy career, for a total of 18 yards. But after starter Kwame Moultrie left with a pulled hamstring in the first period, Flis became a workhorse, hammering out 62 yards in 12 carries.

On the drive that set up Schenk's decisive 37-yard field goal with 5:52 left, Flis drove for first downs with gains of five yards on fourth and one, seven on third and six, and seven on second and three.

"We needed first downs and we needed the yards," Flis said. "I'm not the starter, but you have to accept your role and do your best when the coach calls your number. This week was Operation Recovery. We accomplished what we wanted to do. We won. We're out to go 6-0 at home and we're not going to let anybody come in and take a game from us." Navy (2-1) has won its first two home games.

It was a day for second-string running backs, as senior tailback Jason Pace ran 102 yards in 17 carries. That didn't quite match his previous career total of 148.

Villanova (1-2) tried hard to spring an upset and came close, with 5-7 sophomore quarterback Tom Colombo completing 23 of 33 passes for 287 yards. Greg Downs, the superb senior split end out of Washington's Carroll High School, caught six for 118 yards and one touchdown.

"It was a bitter loss, just a bitter loss," said Villanova Coach Andy Talley. "Our kids played hard and they played well enough to win."

The Wildcats rallied to take a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, after falling behind, 14-0 and 17-7. It took them only four plays to march 33 yards after cornerback Tom Sency recovered a wild pitchout by Grizzard.

Fullback Jeff Johnson had a hand in all four plays, catching two passes and running on the other two, including the six-yard touchdown.

Navy was clearly in disarray at that point, but a defense that had been burned in every possible manner suddenly got tough and limited Villanova to five first downs the rest of the way.

"(Cocaptain) Bill Bowling and the seniors got everybody going," said defensive tackle Chris Alexander, who made three tackles for a total of 23 yards in losses. "They told us we were playing terrible and the defense had to go out and get the job done."

A third-down sack of Colombo by Alexander forced Villanova to punt late in the third period and Jerry Dawson carried it back 25 yards to the 50, on one of the rare returns not spoiled by a Navy penalty.

Pace gained 32 yards in three carries as the Midshipmen drove to the Villanova 14. On fourth and two, the Navy fans in the crowd of 21,491 made so much noise that Grizzard, after waving frantically for quiet, was called for delay of game. Pushed back five yards, Navy called on Schenk for a 36-yard field goal that made it 21-20.

Villanova drove to a first down at the 50, but Bowling batted a pass away from Johnson on second down and linebacker Tony Domino rushed Colombo so hard on third that Colombo threw the ball at an ineligible receiver. Forced to punt, the Wildcats self-destructed.

As Robert Holmberg awaited the punt at his 16, a Villanova player bumped him and prevented a catch. With the ball technically dead, another Wildcat committed a personal foul and the 30-yard walkoff gave Navy the ball at its 46.

"We were constantly in poor field position because of our kicking game," Talley said. "we overcame it and pinned them down on the punt, and with a chance to hold them we end up getting two penalties like that. There's no excuse for that."

With Flis making those key first downs, the Midshipmen drove to the Villanova 15, where they bogged down and Schenk delivered the 37-yard winner.

The Wildcats had 5:52 left to recoup, but a sack by Bowling and a fine defensive play by cornerback Bill Yancey on a long pass to Downs forced a final punt. Pace and Flis ran out the last 3 1/2 minutes, reeling off three first downs.

"Last year we'd probably have lost this game," Grizzard said. "But this offense can eat up the clock or score in one play. They were expecting passes all day, so we ran power and rammed it down their throats."

Navy built its 14-0 lead on drives of 73 and 56 yards. Pace went over from the seven on a wishbone pitch from Grizzard to make it 7-0 and tailback Rodney Purifoy went four yards on another pitch for the second touchdown, after Bowling forced a fumble by Pat Kennedy at the Navy 44.

Villanova needed four plays from the 1-yard line before Colombo's rollout cut the deficit to 14-7. After Schenk kicked a 34-yarder, Downs made a sensational diving catch of a 32-yarder pass to make it 17-14.