PHILADELPHIA -- The opportunities to have his confidence shaken arrived twice yesterday, but Army quarterback Ronnie McAda never batted an eye.
When Navy raced to a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter at Veterans Stadium, he believed strongly in a Cadets comeback.
And when the Midshipmen -- down four points -- twice marched to within the shadow of the Army goal line in the final three minutes, McAda had the utmost faith in his defensive teammates. He was right on both counts and the Cadets held on for their fifth straight victory in the series and a record 10th this season, 28-24, to earn the Commander in Chief's Trophy and a bid to the Independence Bowl.
"I love close games as long as we win," said McAda, the most valuable player of the rain-soaked 97th renewal. "At the end, I would much rather have had the ball in my hands like it was last year so I could do something about the score.
"But I have complete confidence in my teammates. All I could do was sit on the bench, look up at the Videotron and pray the whole time. I was counting on those guys out there. I knew they would pull it out for us."
The senior from Mesquite, Texas, now will never experience defeat in the storied military rivalry. But when Navy scored three touchdowns within 4 1/2 minutes and went up by 18 points, it looked like his time might come.
"Even down 21-3, I wasn't concerned because I knew we had come back before," said McAda, who broke Glenn Davis' career record for total offense in the Army-Navy game with 533 yards, 250 yesterday. "Playing catch-up in previous games has to help you. It doesn't matter if you're down 20 points or 40 points.
"It almost seemed like the first game of the season when we started down 14-0 [to Ohio University]. This team has tremendous character. It fights and scratches for everything it can get. I knew coming in, this game was coming down to the wire."
McAda's outlook only reaffirmed what the Army coaching staff had instilled in the Cadets.
"Momentum is a short-lived thing in this game," said Army coach Bob Sutton. "It's only a factor when one team gives in and you know that's not going to happen here."
McAda rushed for 134 yards and passed for 116 (setting an Army game record for total offense) and ran for a 44-yard touchdown to halt Navy's big second-quarter outburst.
He also unleashed the longest run of his career -- 45 yards -- in the third period to the Navy 18, setting up the touchdown that pushed the Cadets in front to stay.
McAda labeled "unbelievable" the realization that no Cadets team had ever won 10 games in a season before yesterday. "We're proud to be that team," he said.
The quarterback missed 2 1/2 games with a bruised left ankle, stopping his 22-game starting streak. He had gained that station by rising from fourth-string.
So, he had the feeling that Navy wanted him to be involved heavily.
"I came into this game with a little over 300 yards rushing. That was low compared to the last couple of years," he said. "I think they wanted me to run the ball and make the plays."
McAda accommodated the Midshipmen and received kudos from Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie.
"He did a great job of making people miss in the open field," said Weatherbie. "He's a big guy [6 feet 3, 202 pounds] and looks almost as if he is lumbering. But he showed great leadership today as he has throughout his Army career."
Not extremely fast nor extremely impressive, McAda simply repeated yesterday what he does best: win. And believe in himself and the rest of the Cadets.
"You know this is going to be a hard-fought battle," he said. "We're from the same backgrounds."
McAda grew up in the Dallas area, a three-hour drive from Shreveport, La., site of the Independence Bowl. Has he been there?
"I've gone to the riverboats a few times," he said. "It sure feels good to be going back."
Pub Date: 12/08/96