ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 27 -- This is exam week at the Naval Academy, that stressful time that in the past had Dominic Flis wondering what he was trying to prove.

Up at 6:15, exam at 7:15, regular classes until practice at 3:30, 2 1/2 hours of laboring in obscurity as an nth-string fullback, a quick dinner and hours of study until exhaustion set in or somebody finally enforced lights out.

This week, though, there is a gleam in Flis's eye, an extra cadence to his step, a measure of confidence born of the knowledge that Navy won a football game on Saturday because he was given an important task and executed it to perfection.

Over three previous seasons, Flis compiled a remarkable average for a fullback: nine yards a carry. Except that he carried the ball only once. In the first two games this season, he matched that accomplishment: one carry for nine yards.

Flis's average suffered a bit in Saturday's 23-21 victory over Villanova, when he gained 62 yards on 12 carries. But more important than the raw figures was the situation under which he came through. On the drive that set up Frank Schenk's game-winning field goal, Flis ripped off gains of five yards on fourth and one, seven on third and six and seven on second and three.

It was a powerful effort by the man who for more than two years has been best known here as Alton Grizzard's roommate. Afterward, Grizzard, who established an academy career record for total offense, pointed out to the media: "I hope you'll give my roommate, Dominic Flis, some credit for the great game he had out there today."

While Flis has prospered under Coach George Chaump's multiple offense, Grizzard has struggled, quite a turnabout from the days when Grizzard was the key to Elliot Uzelac's wishbone and Flis labored in obscurity because he was unable to master the precise blocking techniques.

"Griz is a great leader and he holds the team together, keeps us from going crazy," Flis said. "But this year we've kept him from going crazy."

It was Grizzard's support that helped Flis survive the dismal days when he wondered if all that practice time was really worth it, if he couldn't spend those hours in more productive fashion by hitting the books instead of a linebacker.

"Griz has kept my chin up more than once," Flis said. "We tend to leave football on the field, but we do critique each other and we encourage each other. He's very critical of himself and if his statistics haven't been great, you have to point out the good things he does on the field.

"So many times I wanted to quit, but I figured if I quit, it would take away something. I like to play football and I like being around the guys who play football. Here, your friends tend to be in your sport. You spend your time with the guys on the team.

"I had to separate my feelings about not getting to play with the people I was around. They gave me a lot of support and helped me put things in perspective."

Flis has seen considerable action this fall because the first-string fullback, Kwame Moultrie, has suffered a series of injuries. Moultrie may be back for Saturday's game against Boston College. Even if he isn't, Chaump has indicated he might move tailback Jason Pace into the starting fullback spot.

"Flis has done a great job in situations, but I want to get more speed in the fullback spot," Chaump said. "Right now, I can't say who will start where on Saturday. There should be some combination of Moultrie-Flis-Pace-{Ivan} Bullard at fullback and tailback, but we're using two sets in practice and we could go either way."

That hardly is a welcome endorsement for a player coming off his best game, and Flis, who once ran 76 yards for a touchdown in the Arkansas high school championship game, likes to think he has pretty good speed. But he has no intention of complaining.

"I don't know what the coaches have planned, but I'm accepting my role on the team, whatever it is," Flis said. "Right now, I'm happy to be playing. I've played more in three games than I did in three years. The coaches know I want to play. They know I'll give them everything I can.

"I've got enough to look at with exams and BC, without worrying about whether I'm one or two. The physical aspect is tough enough after you stay up late studying, and then you're tired at practice.

"But it won't be hard to focus on the game. We know our opponent and we know it will be tough. Every game at home is critical and we feel we can go 6-0 at home.

"It's frustrating to not fill up the stadium when you're the only college playing football in Annapolis. Part of bringing Navy football back is to win at home. We want to win and we want to go to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Going 6-0 here is the key, along with beating Army and Air Force. We'll be ready, exams or no exams."