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Jeffrey Marcin borrowed the phrase, but his flawless impromptu delivery and unbridled joy resulted in the radio call of the college football season.
“Holy Mother Meatballs!”
That’s what Marcin, the 21-year-old sports director for Appalachian State student radio station 90.5-FM WASU, shouted during his live call of the Mountaineers’ Hail Mary touchdown to beat Troy, 32-28, on Saturday.
The phrase tumbled out thanks to Marcin’s quick thinking.
“I was saying Holy-something, and I couldn’t say multiple four-letter words that are not allowed on airwaves,” Marcin, a senior from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told me this week, “so that’s what spewed out of me.”
Marcin credits the phrase to Tiktok creator @Mike525457, a New York Giants fan who has used the “Holy Mother Meatballs!” line in jubilant videos. Marcin had seen those videos, and the phrase popped into his head as he searched for words to describe Appalachian State’s great escape.
For many, though, Marcin’s call became their introduction to “Holy Mother Meatballs!”
“I can confidently say I’ve never heard Holy Mother Meatballs before he said it,” said Kody Bair, a 20-year-old App State junior and Marcin’s color commentator for the broadcast.
Bair watched in disbelief, speechless, as he gave Marcin the runaway to describe the unfathomable finish. As Marcin’s words sunk in, Bair did a mental double-take.
“Did he just say ‘Holy Mother Meatballs?’” Bair remembers thinking. “People are going to love this.”
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Student radio operates as a tightly knit crew, and Saturday’s broadcast featured Marcin and Bair, sideline reporter Lucas Warren and board operator Kurt Zottl.
Marcin estimates their live audience consisted mostly of family and friends, but after his call hit social media, “Holy Mother Meatballs!” could be enjoyed by a cast of thousands.
In the minutes leading up to the Hail Mary, Marcin sounded despondent and resigned to an unkind fate. The Mountaineers’ coronation as Group of Five darling had not unfolded as planned.
Student radio call of Appalachian State’s final drive in thrilling win against Troy
Play-by-play broadcaster Jeffrey Marcin and color commentator Kody Bair call the action during a student radio broadcast of Appalachian State’s final drive in a thrilling victory, 32-28, over Troy on Sept. 17, 2022. Audio courtesy of 90.5-FM WASU.
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WASU only broadcasts home games, so Marcin watched App State topple the Aggies from his off-campus apartment before hopping a bus to celebrate on campus. There, he found pandemonium. Marcin joined revelers in jumping into the Duck Pond, honoring an App State tradition to celebrate big football victories with a dip.
“It was incredible to see,” Marcin said of the scene that day.
ESPN wanted a closer look, and, for the first time, it selected App State’s Boone, North Carolina, campus as the location for its “College GameDay” broadcast before the Mountaineers’ game against Troy.
The Mountaineers were a 14-point favorite, but they trailed the Trojans 28-24 in the final minute.
That’s when Troy coach Jon Sumrall made a curious choice. Instead of punting on fourth down, he had his quarterback run out of the end zone for a safety with 20 seconds remaining. Troy followed that with a squib kickoff. Those decisions gave App State the ball with a chance to advance into range for a game-winning field goal.
Bair, during the broadcast, called Sumrall’s strategy “shocking.”
Marcin put it bluntly when we spoke Monday.
“One of the dumbest coaching decisions that I’ve seen,” Marcin said of the safety.
But after three straight Chase Brice incompletions, App State was reduced to a final play, 53 yards from the end zone.
Jeffrey Marcin’s call of a wild, wild finish
“App State’s got one chance to heave it to the end zone,” Marcin said on the broadcast. “Everybody’s saying their prayers around The Rock.”
One word kept going through Bair’s mind.
Miracle, miracle, miracle.
As Brice’s pass descended into a mess of bodies 5 yards short of the goal line, Marcin sensed defeat.
“It’s not going to get there,” he said solemnly on the air.
And then …
A player from each team elevated for the ball, and it deflected off their hands – and into the hands of Appalachian State receiver Christian Horn.
“It’s caught by Christian Horn,” Marcin said, his voice rising.
“He’s around the outside!” Marcin continued, decibels climbing. “And he scores! He scores!”
“App State wins!” Marcin hollered, his voice cracking just a bit.
Then he uttered those three perfect words to describe one of the wackiest endings you’ll ever see.
“Holy Mother Meatballs!” Marcin shouted. “It’s a touchdown for App State on a Hail Mary! Christian Horn, touuucchhhdowwnn! Are you serious?”
Bair watched, hands on his head, as he offered the best gift a color commentator can supply in such a situation: silence.
“As a color commentator, it’s just as important to know when not to say something as it is when to say something,” Bair said.
Marcin’s call, overtop of the crowd cheering in the background, said it all.
Holy Mother Meatballs, what a finish. And what a call.