DePauw-Wabash battle for the Monon Bell on Saturday
CRAWFORDSVILLE – Once again, the ping carries all the way through campus.
From the campus chapel to Hollett Little Giants Stadium. The ring never goes unnoticed around the middle of November on this small campus in the middle of Crawfordsville.
“It’s an expectation,” said Wabash receiver Drake Christen when it comes to bringing the Monon Bell back to campus.
Why not? That’s all Little Giants football fans have known the past five years.
In their longest winning streak in their rivalry against DePauw since the late 1940s and early 50, Wabash has won five consecutive Monon Bell games and in the process have dominated the Tigers. It’s why the team’s fans are confident that their 8-1 Little Giants can make it six-in-a-row Saturday afternoon when they face DePauw for the 121st time just after 1 PM in Crawfordsville.
“It’s a big game, we understand that. We appreciate the atmosphere and all the supporters that come out, to show us love,” said senior linebacker A.J. Akinribade of the game.
Wabash has shown no love to their rivals during this five-game winning streak in which the Little Giants have won convincingly. In the past four Monon Bell game wins Erik Raeburn’s team has won by a combined score of 153-28-with all but seven of those coming in a 38-21 win a year ago in Greencastle.
The last time DePauw had a lead against the Giants in a Monon Bell game was early in the third quarter of the 2009 game. A good showing against the Tigers is likely needed again if Wabash hopes to qualify for the Division III Playoffs since the automatic bid was lost when Wittenberg beat the Little Giants last week to win the North Coast Atlantic Conference Title.
Still, it’s bringing the bell home that matters the most to Wabash even if it ends up being their last game of the season.
"If your a senior the most important bell game to you is the one your senior year so our seniors our definitely motivated to try and win the game," said Raeburn-who has had two classes of players go through their college careers with possession of the trophy the entire time.
Bill Lynch is on the opposite side of the bell. He hasn't had possession of it since his one-year stint with DePauw in 2004 when they beat the Little Giants 14-7. Lynch was hired as Terry Hoeppner's offensive coordinator soon after and since then DePauw has only had the Bell twice-in 2007 and 2008.
Since 2009 the Tigers' Monon Bell case has been empty but this year Lynch has the program headed back on the right path in his second year back at the school. He will take his team to Crawfordsville with a 7-2 record and winners of their last three games a year removed from a 4-6 campaign.
"Defense has been outstanding all year. I think that's where it starts," said Lynch when asked what has led to the improvement of the team this season. "They've done a great job of controlling run, creating turnovers."
The proof of that is in the statistics where DePauw is allowing just 14.3 points a game-seven fewer than the 2013 season. The offense hasn't been bad either as sophomore quarterback Matt Hunt's 16 touchdown passes and 1,684 yards through the air have helped the Tigers averaged 35 points a game.
It's made for an uplifting season for a program that endured a few coaching changes and three-straight losing seasons while also losing the Monon Bell game five straight times. If anything, it gives Tigers fans hope that this could be the year the bell makes it way back to Greencastle.
"When you win you develop confidence," said Lynch. "Obviously this is a big football game for them. Our seniors haven't had the bell so that's all they've heard since they've been here. We've had a good week of practice and coming off good wins, you develop a little bit of confidence. We've got to carry that over to tomorrow when we head up to Crawfordsville."