"I Did Play by Play on Two Eph Miracle Football Finishes 15 Years Apart"
CHAPTER 2 – continued from Hamilton game program
By Steve Epstein '83
I began the WCFM/TEAMLINE broadcast of the 1997 Amherst game on a telephone, alone, with no prior knowledge of either team and not knowing if or when Eph students Matt Marvin and Jason Hehir would arrive with the broadcasting equipment.
Minutes into the first quarter, Matt and Jason arrived, but with one phone and no additional microphones, it was decided I should continue calling the game on the phone until the broadcasting equipment arrived from the soccer field.
Unbeknownst to me, Matt and Jason then took to sampling some of the local beverages at the tailgates below. While my broadcast mates were getting into a festive mood, I was calling the second quarter, which ended with Williams surprising everyone by holding a 24-14 lead.
During halftime the broadcasting headsets, mixer, and other equipment arrived and I got a chance to meet and chat with Jason and Matt, who while clearly personable and knowledgeable, had also developed a certain exuberance that seemed to emanate from whatever they had sampled below.
With two capable and clever teammates to share the broadcast, my job got easier, but I knew it was going to be a challenge. I said, "I can see it's going to be a different game in the second half," and I wasn't commenting on the football to be played.
Pretty soon it was clear that Matt (whose baritone growls reminded me of Randy "Macho Man" Savage of the WWE) and Jason were in a very festive mood and would add great color to the broadcast. Matt said, as he put on his headset "Thanks to Steve for a heroic call of the first half, without taking a breath." Jason, in the background, began singing (yes, singing!) the lyrics from Wind Beneath My Wings, "Did you ever know that Steve's my hero…." Oh my God, this was going to be fun!
Even with Jason and Matt calling the game with me, there wasn't much for Williams fans to cheer about in the third quarter. Amherst scored 17 unanswered and lead 31-24.
When the now mythical fourth quarter began the broadcast team sped into high-octane overdrive. Williams scored three consecutive TDs, taking advantage of a roughing the kicker penalty on freshman booter Collin Vataha for one TD and converting an Amherst fumble on the ensuing kick off into an almost insurmountable 14-point lead. It seemed like celebration time with just over six minutes to go – which was convenient since Matt and Jason had been celebrating since arriving.
Matt came up with analysis like, "That's big freshman [running back] Freddie Storz. He's big, he's a freshman and his name is Freddie." You don't get THAT from Chris Collingsworth on NBC. Matt also offered, "A brilliant call by Williams' assistant coach Dave Caputi. Of course if it doesn't work, he looks like an idiot. Just brilliant, like my English papers!"
In the final six minutes, things really got interesting. The potent Amherst offense needed just four minutes to score two TDs and then used trickery to take the lead on a fake kick, 2-point conversion pass, putting them ahead 46-45. Williams had 1:49 to find another miracle, and my Groundhog Day was now in full déjà vu mode – it was 1982 all over again.
Amherst kicked-off and a sack put the Ephs back on their own 7-yard line with not much more than hope left. A couple of plays later, Williams was looking at a fourth and seven at their own 25-yard line with 57 seconds remaining. QB Peter Supino found receiver Matt Sigrist for 25 yards and combined with a 15-yard penalty for a late hit the Ephs advanced to the Amherst 35, eventually set up a 27-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds remaining.
Pandemonium swept into the broadcast booth. Matt Marvin BECAME the embodiment of The Macho Man, bellowing "If you're not here, get down to the field baby, this is unbelievable. I don't care. This is the best thing I have ever seen." Jason piped in that Dick Quinn had predicted the game would be won on a last second Collin Vataha field goal and that if that occurred, Jason had promised to jump naked out of the broadcast booth. I believed it might happen!
As Vataha and the Eph field goal unit trotted onto the field Matt took it up to the next level (almost literally), "If you're a religious person, start praying," and then he started to plead – maybe to the Football Gods, maybe to the freshman kicker, bellowing, "Please make this!!!! Please make this!!!"
I shifted back to the play by play, "Ball down, kick up, it's good!!!!! Williams wins on a field goal!!!!! Williams wins! Williams wins!" Complete chaos broke out in the booth. There was screaming, there was whistling, there was unintelligible banter and then Matt Marvin was heard, in apparent ecstasy, blurting out, "This is the best thing I've ever seen in my life," and added the post-script, "The whole reason this is a good game is because Matt Marvin, Jason Hehir, and Steve Epstein are calling it." Hyperbole?
That was it, 48-46. Williams had prevailed. You don't have to believe me when I tell you it was the greatest finish in one of the greatest college football rivalries. It is and we are in "the book".
Thanks go to Dick Farley, Dick Quinn, Jason Hehir and the irrepressible Matt Marvin for the memories. Even 20 years later, it makes me proud to have been in that booth and in "the book".
Steve Epstein is a Partner at Haynes & Boone, LLP in New York City and lives in Rye Brook, NY with his wife Susan, where they raised three children: Michael, Adam, and Jamie. Steve can be ready at a moment's notice to deliver another Eph football miracle.