Wabash’s defense keeps the Monon Bell in Crawfordsville for a 6th-straight year
CRAWFORDSVILLE – Maybe this would be the year it ends.
An opposing side crammed with a healthy amount of black and sprinkles of yellow at Hollett Little Giants Stadium showed the hope was in the minds of those who made the 28 mile drive up US-231 to check out their team.
It’s been six years since DePauw fans have been able to take the Monon Bell back south with them. Five straight losses they’ve had to Wabash and for five years they’ve heard the trophy ring 52 yards across the field.
But with a 7-2 record and some added momentum into the program with the hiring of Bill Lynch there was a inkling that this may be the year the Tigers break through.
Not quite. In fact, it was the Little Giants who literally rang the bell of their biggest rivals.
Paced by a stout defense Wabash turned the 121st Monon Bell game into another decisive day for the fans in red as they jumped to a 17-point halftime lead in route to a 17-3 victory over the Tigers. It’s “Sweet Six-cess” for the Little Giants who have tied their second-longest winning streak in the series-the last coming between 1949 and 1955.
“This is the third class in a row that has been able to graduate from Wabash having never lost in the bell game,” said Wabash head coach Erik Raeburn-who has been at the helm of the Little Giants program for all six wins in the streak. “For all Wabash men, they kind of define their football career based on their four opportunities to play in the bell game.”
If this is the 2014 edition of Wabash football’s final game-the team still has a shot for an at-large bit to the Division III playoffs-than their defense defined their last day. The unit surrendered just 151 total yards the entire day and 74 of those came on a reception by Jay D. Robinson that led the Tigers’ only points of the day on a field goal.
The Little Giants allowed only 40 yards on 34 attempts and sacked quarterback Matt Hunt five times-holding Wabash 32 points under their season average for points.
"Attach them upfront," said senior outside linebacker Cody Buresh-who had three of the Little Giants' sacks to break the school career record in that category. "Our defensive line did a really good job today and we can't do a good job unless we have good coverage. So good coverage from our DBs and also good job upfront."
Meanwhile Wabash's offense was efficient in the first half in helping to establish an early lead. Andrew Tutsie's field goal got the Little Giants on the board and Drake Christen scored what would end up being the game-winning points with two minutes to go in the first quarter when he caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Connor Rice.
DePauw responded with a field goal set up by Robinson's long catch which would have been a touchdown had the receiver not lost his footing. Marko Adams would hit a 24-yard field goal after Wabash stalled the drive inside the five and that was it for the Tigers, who would only get into Little Giants territory once the rest of the day.
"Their defensive front is has got to be as good as there is in Division III," said DePauw head coach Bill Lynch-whose team finished a much-improved 7-3. "Their linebackers really run well and they've got a good secondary. We knew it was going to be tough sledding."
But the Tigers made it that way for Wabash after the Little Giants got another field goal from Tutsie and then a touchdown run from Mason Zurek to make it 20-3 at the break. DePauw pitched a second-half shutout on defense and blocked a third quarter field goal while forcing a miss on another attempt.
What ended up breaking the Tigers was a fourth quarter play on special teams by Wabash's Connor Ludwig. The sophomore linebacker blocked a punt and then managed to get back on his feet to recover it in the endzone for the game-clinching touchdown.
As they have since 2009, Wabash's senior offensive lineman picked up the Monon Bell from their sidelines and carried it to midfield. Players and fans rang it throughout Hollett Little Giants Stadium for the next 45 minutes.
"I don't really know what to say about it," said a jubilant A.J. Akinribade-a senior linebacker who had five tackles in the win. "The accomplishment of everything coming together is just an awesome feeling. When you grind and put your heart into something and it all pays off, it's a great feeling and nobody can take this away from us."
That's because Wabash wouldn't let them in a 60-minute clinic on defensive football.