Trailing 17-14 with a fourth down at the 1, Navy decided to go for the win. Dobbs took the snap, went to his left and was met by Tate, who would not relent to the momentum Dobbs brought to the line.
"We should have kicked the field goal to send it into overtime," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "In hindsight, we should have just kicked the ball."
Earlier in the drive, Dobbs was stopped on a third-and-8. But Maryland's Adrian Moten was flagged for grabbing the facemask on the play, and the Midshipmen advanced until Tate's big play.
"I thought I was going to be able to get it outside," Dobbs said. "I felt 100 percent confident that we were going to be able to punch it in."
Coming off a 2-10 season, the Terrapins came in as underdogs against a Navy team that went 10-4 and beat Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
But Maryland raced to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and then held on behind a defense that repeatedly excelled after Navy got inside the 20.
The Midshipmen had a 7 1/2-minute edge in time of possession in the first half, yet trailed 14-7 after coming up empty on drives of 52, 63 and 66 yards.
In the second half, Dobbs lost a fumble at the Maryland 1 and was stuffed by Tate on the game's pivotal play.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Niumatalolo said. "We left 31 points on the field."
Dobbs ran for 63 yards and a touchdown, but the senior quarterback fumbled three times -- losing two of them at the Maryland 1.
"I take sole responsibility for the occurrences here today," Dobbs said. "I didn't get the job done."
Niumatalolo said, "He's human. He's done some great things for us and won a lot of games for us. We all make mistakes. I made one at the end of the game."
There were plenty by both teams.
"Both of us turned the ball over when we wouldn't want to," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Last year, we probably wouldn't have won this game. We found a way to hang in there. Hopefully, this will build confidence and be a positive experience for them."
Maryland never trailed despite allowing the Midshipmen to amass 429 yards rushing.
"I can't remember a time when we rushed for 400 yards and lost," Niumatalolo said. "There's no consolation in moving the ball."
Navy didn't punt until early in the fourth quarter, and the short kick was returned 57 yards by Tony Logan to the Navy 16.
Maryland promptly fumbled the ball away on a missed exchange involving backup quarterback Danny O'Brien -- his only play of the game.
"We wanted to get Danny in the game," Friedgen said.
The Midshipmen pulled even at 14 with 1:52 left in the third quarter when Dobbs scored from the 1 on a drive that began with wide receiver Greg Jones running 53 yards on a reverse.
A crowd of 69,348 showed up for the second meeting between the teams since 1965. There's no telling when the next matchup between the two will be held.
"It's a great game," Friedgen said. "We ought to be doing it."