Ken Becker '99 – 1996 Upset of Amherst Summed Up My Williams Career
By Ken Becker
The reason I came to Williams was simple. I wanted to play football and it was the best academic choice, albeit out of my academic comfort zone. I met future teammate Ric Duggan on my first visit to Williams and he was warm, friendly, and, most of all, he was ecstatic about Williams.
Meeting with head coach Dick Farley on Sunday morning of my weekend visit, he summed up my value in no uncertain terms, "We're going to win with or without you." OK, so no clear view on whether the coaches thought I could play at Williams…
When I arrived at the football welcome barbeque in front of Cole Field House, assistant coach Renzie Lamb was flipping burgers on the grill with a well-worn cigar in his mouth—unlit. Wearing long-sleeve pullover, lacrosse shorts, and flip-flops, he was grumbling about tigers killing "when they're hungry, not when they're full of scrambled eggs." I thought maybe I could play football at Williams.
At the barbeque, I met seniors Medley Gatewood, Ethan Brooks, Dan Frasco, and Eric Minkwitz, and they towered over me. Standing as tall as I could at an embellished six feet, I felt like a boy among men. Maybe I was out of my athletic zone too.
In 1995 we went undefeated, but a 5-2 Amherst team tied us 0-0 on a swampy Weston Field. I could tell by the seniors' faces it was a loss to us. Amherst celebrated like they had won the Super Bowl. Maybe they had. The 1995 Eph team was talented and coach Farley once said, "All we had to do is make sure the bus didn't break down."
In 1996 we suffered a tough loss to Trinity (14-13) in our second game. Our 23-game unbeaten streak was over. Going into the Amherst game, we were 5-2 after a second-half comeback against Hamilton came up short. We also could have been 2-5. Some wins could have gone the other way, but we all kept hustling and our defense gave us opportunities to come back. I guess the season was our preparation for Amherst.
Amherst owned a well-earned 7-0 record and had spent the past few years preparing to beat us. They'd gotten a taste with that 1995 game, but it had been ten years since Amherst had actually prevailed. Upping the ante, they had decided to kick off a major capital campaign on the afternoon of the game.
We played the first half competitively, thanks again to our defense. All the guys left it on the field. Everyone contributed. Everyone hustled. On offense, Mark Kossick, Peter Supino and Matt Sigrist notched highlight reel plays. Seniors Eric Kelly and Rob Hyland shut down Amherst's standout defensive lineman and NFL prospect Alex Bernstein.
At halftime, we were down 7-6 but there was a sense we could hang with these guys. Offensive line coach Mike Whalen stepped up with an inspirational question for the team as halftime was just about to end—"What about Amherst?"—and we exploded out of the locker room.
Amherst kicked a field goal in the third quarter, but Kossick made an epic fingertip grab in the end zone, and the lead, 12-10, at the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter Amherst re-gained the lead on a field goal. Later, Amherst punted the ball to our two-yard line with 5:26 to play. The predominantly Amherst crowd sounded excited, while the Williams faithful went quiet.
On our first play I lined up to hike the ball to QB Peter Supino with my cleats just in front of the goal line. Supino threw to Matt Sigrist for a quick 28-yard strike on first down, which gave us some breathing room. Supino then hit Kossick for a 15-yard gain. Mike McAdam ran 7-yards on first down. Kris Kahn got two yards, setting up the pivotal play of the game, a third and one. If we got the first down, we seized the momentum… fail and we'd lose control of the outcome. Kahn got the call and we earned the first down. The game changed for me at that moment.
We were on the Amherst 47 with half a field to go, but there was a sense that we could pull this off. On the jog back to the huddle, I remember thinking to myself, "look around, take a moment to enjoy this. This is something special." I scanned both sidelines and I think smiled for the rest of the series.
After a nice gain on a draw, Supino connected with Sigrist and Kossick for a couple of big yardage plays, and then we were sitting with first and 10 on the Amherst 11-yard line. Needless to say, the Williams faithful rediscovered their cheering voices and the offensive line regained confidence. Kahn grabbed six more yards giving us second and 5 from the Amherst six-yard line. Mike McAdam gained three yards to put us third and 2 from the Amherst 3-yard line. Forty seconds remained. McAdam ran off left tackle and scored. Sam Landis made the point after and we reclaimed the lead, 19-13! The game ended with Amherst at midfield.
The 1996 game summed up my Williams experience: getting outside my comfort zone both academically and athletically, and achieving a measure of success I could later build on.
Did I get my memory of that day in November of 1996 right? Maybe not exactly, but my feelings for Williams and the guys on the team haven't changed. I relished my experience and I'm ecstatic about Williams.
Ken Becker earned All-America honors in 1998 playing center for the Ephs. He is a Managing Director at AMA Capital in New York City and he resides in Connecticut with his wife Erin and three kids, Grace, Adam and Baby TBD. When not in the office, he visualizes his three children being accepted to Williams.