ANNAPOLIS -- During a preseason workout, Navy cornerback Bill Yancey was asked by quarterback Alton Grizzard how many passes he would intercept during the 1990 season.
"I said five," said Yancey, a junior who played mainly on special teams last year. "[Grizzard] said, 'I think the school record is seven.' Then, I told myself I would try to get one more than that."
The record is eight (John Sturges, 1977), and Yancey put himself within reach of that mark by intercepting three passes in Navy's 14-10 over Toledo on Saturday.
That gave Yancey five interceptions for the year. All five have come in the past three weeks, with the three Saturday earning him the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I-A Defensive Player of the Week award.
"It was the biggest game ever for me, by far," said Yancey, who played sparingly last season. "A couple of weeks ago, [secondary coach] Jerry Hartman told us that everyone would have to work hard in practice and that working hard would pay off. I never expected it to be like this."
His three interceptions helped keep Navy (4-5) in position to finish 1990 with a winning record, but one of his four tackles may have been more important.
With Toledo leading, 10-7, with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game, Toledo's Neil Trotter took a handoff from his 17-yard line, broke several tackles at the line and raced down the right sideline toward an apparent touchdown. But Yancey, who had been covering a wide receiver on the other side of the field, caught Trotter at the Navy 17 after a 66-yard gain. Toledo failed to score, and Navy got the winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.
"It surprised me, looking back at the films, because it looked like our linemen took care of [Trotter]," Yancey, who ran the mile relay in high school, said of the play. "I just reacted. I thought someone else would catch him. As the play went on, I was really gaining ground."
Navy coach George Chaump called the tackle "by far the best play of the night."
"He's playing the ball well," Chaump said. "He's developed into a ballhawk."
Yancey credits his individual success to an improving defense that, aside from the 52-31 loss to Notre Dame, has limited opponents to 13 points per game over its latest four games.
"The defense has come a long way," said Yancey, a general science major. "Individually, a lot of players have put a lot of time in. [Hartman] is a perfectionist, and it's almost like we're playing for a spot every day."
Yancey played five sports at The Landon School in Bethesda, including baseball, basketball, tennis and lacrosse. He enjoyed football the most, as he earned Washington all-Metro honors as a running back.
"I played running back and free safety in high school, but I would have played anywhere here," Yancey said. "My father was in the Air Force, and I really wanted to become a Naval officer. I attended the Navy football camp here and enjoyed it."
Now he's a regular on the football team. Yancey said that although he didn't play much on defense last season, he feels stung by last year's 10-9 loss at Delaware. He said the Midshipmen are eager to avenge that defeat in the home finale Saturday.
"This is more or less revenge from last year. Everyone still has a bad taste in their mouth from that game," Yancey said. "For us, this is the most important part of the season if we want to have a winning season.
"Everyone knows what we have to do. There hasn't been a winning season here since  -- that's a long time."