Matt Marvin was a two-sport athlete at Williams, playing three years of football and four years of baseball. Both Marvin and classmate Jason Hehir knew they wanted to get into sports media after graduation, so they talked their way into the radio booth for the 1997 Eph football season.
As friends and baseball teammates Marvin and Hehir had become a most entertaining tandem. Never short of words in any situation, they were soon hired to broadcast Eph football for WCFM, the college radio station.
The Williams-Amherst football finale was scheduled for the afternoon of November 8 that year. But the men's soccer team went into overtime against Amherst earlier that day. As a result, the radio box that would have allowed more than one broadcaster to be on air at the same time was stuck down at Cole Field and wouldn't be in place in time for the noon kickoff.
Steve Epstein '83 had returned to town to help call the game, so Marvin and Hehir decided to have Steve open the broadcast on a phone line while they waited for the box to show up. "I don't recall Jay and I being devastated when we learned the radio equipment wasn't going to show up on time," stated Marvin. "We had friends tailgating and figured that joining them would be a good use of our time as we waited to join Steve for the second half."
Marvin and Hehir waited comfortably. Eventually the radio box made it back to Weston Field and Marvin and Hehir made it up to the broadcast booth.
On paper the Ephs had no business being on the same field with Amherst that day. It had been the same the previous year, when a visiting 5-2 Williams team surprised a 7-0 Amherst eleven with a late fourth quarter 98-yard TD drive, making the Ephs the happiest 6-2 team in the country.
This year, Amherst was determined to beat Williams and go 8-0-0. And why wouldn't they? The Lord Jeffs had crushed seven previous opponents, allowing just 45 points for the season. Plus, they had a score to settle.
But it seemed from the start like the football gods were frowning on Amherst, as Williams stunned almost 12,000 onlookers by taking a 24-14 lead into halftime.
Meanwhile, in the broadcast booth, Marvin explained to listeners that Eph head coach Dick Farley always told his team, "in this game you have two hours to play and a lifetime to remember." So Marvin knew his football buddies would be getting fired up for the second half. "It was awesome to see the guys play so well," he recalled. "There is always a lot riding on that game and in many ways it determines whether or not the season is a success or a failure. Nobody who was on the team in 1995 had forgotten the bad taste the 0-0 tie left, and seeing the 1996 team pull off their fantastic upset helped amp up the drama in 1997."
The gods may have cracked a smile for Amherst early in the second half—or maybe it was more of a sarcastic smirk. After the Jeffs scored a TD with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, just about everyone in the crowd assumed they would kick the extra point and settle for a tie. Instead, they threw for a two-point conversion and took the lead, 46-45. "That was a pretty outrageous call," recalled Marvin. "To be honest, I thought the winning streak was coming to an end. I didn't know how the Ephs could find a way to win after that conversion."
Facing fourth and seven from their own 25-yard line with 57 seconds left, Eph QB Peter Supino hit wide receiver Matt Sigrist and Sigrist fought his way to midfield, where he was pushed out of bounds and Amherst was flagged for a late hit. In a single play the Ephs went from their own 25 to the Amherst 35.
Pushing on, Williams managed to move the ball to the Amherst 10, with seven seconds remaining. They had the option of a 27-yard field goal attempt, but the Ephs had gone seventeen consecutive games without making a field goal.
Farley sent emergency freshman placekicker Collin Vataha onto the field for the attempt. Vataha until that day had never kicked a point in a football game. As the Ephs broke the huddle Matt Marvin screamed, "If you're a religious guy start praying now… please make this, please make this." The kick went up, and Marvin's voice was drowned out by Epstein screaming, "Williams wins! Williams wins!" Marvin bellowed, "This is the greatest win in Williams-Amherst football history, and the whole reason is because Matt Marvin, Jason Hehir, and Steve Epstein are bringing it to you." Williams won, 48-46.
The Ephs scored more points against Amherst in that one game than the Jeffs had allowed in the previous seven combined, dropping Amherst back into yet another 7-1 season. This time around, the Ephs were the happiest 7-1 team in the country.
Marvin and Hehir both made it into the sports media field, Marvin started with the New England Sports Network, where the following fall he starred in a segment of NESN's "Front Row" retelling this great Eph win. He later moved to NBC Sports where he joined Hehir and now produces NASCAR and NHL hockey for NBC Sports.