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"I signed a letter of intent to go to William and Mary," says Tata. "I'd always watched the Army-Navy games on TV, but I just thought Army got up a team, Navy got up a team, and they played. Then Navy recruited me. I thought, 'You mean I can play on TV, and I can get paid to go to school? Where do I sign?' "
A Tata miss, the 12th in 38 career field-goal attempts, occurred in the first half against William and Mary, which had come into the game at least a two-touchdown underdog. The week before, in its first home game this season, Navy had romped over Duke 31-8 to gain the No. 17 ranking in the AP poll. But William and Mary, with a 4-1-1 record, was not overawed.
"For them we're the big game on their schedule, and they're always up for us," Welsh said before the game. "And this is exam week at the Academy and the kids are tired. Traditionally it's been a poor week for Navy football."
Tradition was maintained. William and Mary, led by Quarterback Tom Rozantz and a platoon of solid runners, hammered away at the Middies, who have not been behind in a game this season. "I want to find out how they react when they are behind," Welsh had said.
Late in the second quarter he almost found out. From the Navy 10, Rozantz lofted a pass that Ed Schiefelbein caught two yards deep in the end zone for an apparent score. But the officials had spied an ineligible receiver downfield and called the touchdown back. The William and Mary threat died a few moments later with a missed field-goal attempt. Navy then drove down to the Indian 30, and Tata failed to convert a 46-yarder into the wind.
Split End Phil McConkey, Navy's only All-America candidate, gave Tata another chance in the third quarter. Last year McConkey led Navy receivers with 34 catches for 596 yards and four touchdowns, and he was No. 3 in the country in punt returns with a 13.5 average. Midway through the third period, McConkey fielded a punt at his 39, spun out of the arms of one tackier, fell in behind a wall of blockers and raced 46 yards to the William and Mary 15. Four plays later Tata drilled home a 27-yarder to put Navy ahead 3-0. In the fourth quarter, Navy's attack finally shook off its exam blues and began to move. Mostly it was Steve Callahan, a speedster who has given Navy an outside threat, who exploited the tiring William and Mary defense. Four Callahan runs picked up 23 yards, and a surprise Callahan pass, a 16-yard toss to Tight End Curt Gainer, brought the ball to the William and Mary 33.
"Thirty-five," Quarterback Bob Leszczynski called in the Navy huddle. This play is a dive with a cutback by Fullback Larry Klawinski, who found a crack on the right side, followed blocks by McConkey and Gainer, spun away from one tackier at the five and carried William and Mary's Paul Tyner into the end zone with him. A Navy try for a two-point conversion failed, and the score remained 9-0 until the final gun.
Any chance William and Mary had ended when Middie punter Art Ohanian dropped a 50-yard kick dead on the Indian five with 1:00 left to play. With eight seconds remaining, Zingler got his third interception of the day.
"Now," said Tata, "I guess we'll find out if we are just a flash in the pan."