PHILADELPHIA — According to Ronnie McAda, a Texas-bred, tough-as-nails quarterback for Army, the final minutes of Saturday's 14-13 victory over Navy were dramatic enough to rattle no less a trooper than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's highest-ranking soldier.
The chairman, Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, paid a visit to the Cadets' locker room after the game. McAda was confident the game had held the general's attention.
"He said to stop giving him gray hairs and that he was proud of us," McAda said.
It was a game in which Navy failed to score a touchdown with three plays inside the three-yard line--when a field goal would have probably secured a victory--and a 99-yard drive by Army won the game.
When McAda took the field with 8:23 remaining, Army trailed, 13-7, and was nearly backed into the corner end zone seats of Veteran's Stadium with the rest of West Point's Cadet brigade. McAda led the Cadets 99 yards, ending in a one-yard touchdown run by fullback John Conroy with 1:03 left.
"I imagine that will go down as one of the great drives in Army football," said Army Coach Bob Sutton, now 4-1 against Navy.
It was Army's fourth consecutive victory in the series, those victories coming by a combined six points. Army finished 5-5-1 and kept Navy (5-6) from its first winning season since 1982.
Army faced fourth and 24 on the final drive, but McAda found split end John Graves on a 28-yard corner route to the Midshipman one-yard line. Graves faked an inside route and outran Navy's strong safety to the sideline. McAda's pass arrived just as Graves ran out of room.
"I dipped in and out and Ron McAda threw it perfect," said Graves, a senior who led all receivers with three catches for 60 yards.
Although kicker J. Parker's extra point after Conroy's touchdown proved to be the deciding point, the kick both teams will remember was the one Navy didn't try, a chip-shot field goal from the Army one that would have put Navy ahead by nine points with 8:23 left.
On fourth down from the one and leading, 13-7, Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie decided on going, as he termed it, "for the kill instead of going for the win."
Quarterback Chris McCoy's pass over the middle to Cory Schemm was behind the receiver and fell incomplete.
"It was my fault," Weatherbie said. "We should have gone for the win, not for the jugular."
The questionable decision to go for the touchdown went to further link this game to the previous three Army victories. Each has come down to a late field goal made, missed, or, in Saturday's case, not tried.
"When they went [for the touchdown], I just said, 'You better make it, cause we're going to score," McAda said. "We'll get two touchdowns if we need to."
McAda passed for 74 yards and rushed for 47. Fullback Conroy rushed 22 times for 74 yards.
Chris McCoy, who rushed for 78 yards, and Ben Fay, who threw for 152 and a touchdown to LeBron Butts, played quarterback for Navy. Tom Vanderhorst kicked two field goals to give Navy a 13-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.