Friday, November 18, 2011

Game Day:
Wabash defeats DePauw, 45-7,
in 2011 Monon Bell Classic

The annual Monon Bell Classic football game features one of the most storied athletic rivalries in the country, but because it involves two private, small colleges in Indiana, it probably is one of the least known athletic rivalry outside of Indiana -- except, of course, among alumni of the two schools. 

Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, and DePauw University, in Greencastle, are only 28 miles apart and in adjoining counties about 50 miles west of Indianapolis. Coming into the 118th game of the classic -- on Nov. 12, 2011, at Greencastle -- Wabash had won two consecutive Bell Classics and had a 9-0 record in 2011. The previous week, it had clinched the outright championship of the North Coast Athletic Conference by decisively defeating previously unbeaten Wittenberg College (Springfield, Ohio) at Crawfordsville, and on Nov. 19, it would begin play in the NCAA Division III postseason playoffs. Wabash fans came to the game demonstrating their support of their team and its unblemished record by wearing white sweatshirts emblazoned with the rally cry "Occupy DePauw."

DePauw, on the other hand, knew this would be its last game of a mediocre 4-4 season, so on paper, the Tigers had good motivation to rise to the occasion -- win and it finishes with a winning record, beats arch-rival Wabash AND reclaims the coveted Monon Bell. The key phrase there is "on paper." After the opening kickoff, the Little Giants quickly made it known they weren't going to rest on previous laurels, and they turned to their defense and special teams to lead the charge.

Wabash scored 24 unanswered points in the first quarter alone -- an Ian MacDougall field goal and three touchdowns -- one on a 22-yard interception return by Jonathon Koop, another on a 44-yard punt return by Wes Chamblee and the third, a 33-yard scamper by running back Vann Hunt on a possession immediately after the Little Giants had recovered a DePauw fumble. The Tigers really didn't have a chance after that. Wabash would score on two more turnovers -- defensive lineman Pat Clegg's recovery in the end zone of a DePauw fumble in the second quarter and Denzil Wilkins' 28-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.

When the clock ticked down to zero in the fourth quarter, the bell had remained safely in the hands of the Little Giants, and Wabash fans swarmed the field to share in the celebration. After the players helped hoist the bell high for all to see, they put it down on the turf and players and fans alike took turns pulling the bell lever, extending the same unending ring intonation that had been heard within a two-block radius of Blackstock Stadium from as early as noon -- nearly five and a half hours earlier. 

The rivalry between Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, one of only three all-male colleges in the United States, and DePauw University, in Greencastle, began in 1890 and is the oldest college football rivalry west of the Alleghenies in which more than 100 games have been played. The idea of incorporating the Monon Bell into the mix as the trophy awarded to the winner was introduced in 1932. Today's 300-pound Monon Bell is from an actual train that rode the former Monon railroad whose expanse had been almost entirely in Indiana; it had termini in Chicago and Louisville. The Monon railroad was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971, and the now abandoned right of way is controlled by CSX Corp. The railroad figures into this particular football rivalry because, in its functional days, the line served both schools and four other Indiana institutions of higher learning -- St. Joseph's College in Renssalaer, Ind.; Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Butler University in Indianapolis; and Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

On the Monday after the Bell Classic, Wabash learned it would host Illinois College (9-1) on Nov. 19 in a first-round game of the NCAA Division III playoffs. With a win in that contest, the Little Giants could very well get another home playoff game.

To view a full gallery of images from the game, visit this link. The next post will be devoted to the Monon Bell Classic atmosphere and the campus of DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. 

Above: Wabash running back Vann Hunt (17) nears the end of a 33-yard run for the game's first score. If you weren't able to tell from the field vantage point that Hunt was nearing the goal, surely you could tell from the Wabash sideline reaction that the run to the house was almost over. The Little Giants' possession on this set of downs came on a fumble recovery. 

Above: DePauw running back Jon Ellis, aided by a nice block by lineman Mitch Turnbow, found a moment of daylight on this rush in the first quarter.

Above: Wabash defenders Houston Hodges (1), CJ Gum (33) and Jonathon Koop stop DePauw receiver Bobby Coburn after a pass reception.

Above: Koop (8) nears the completion of a 22-yard touchdown return of a DePauw pass interception.

Above: Still in the first quarter, Wes Chamblee nears paydirt with a 44-yard punt return, the third TD in front of the Little Giants' sideline. The score put Wabash ahead 24-0.

Above: Tigers punter Eric Malm (17) was challenged by this high, long snap from center. Malm managed to steady himself and get off the punt.

Above: Ellis is again gang tackled by Little Giants Cody Buresh (39), Luke Zinsmaster (54) and Pat Clegg (66).

Above and next three below: DePauw's already dire situation got worse in the second period. With the Tigers pinned deep in their own territory, quarterback Will King was caught near the goal line and sacked by AJ Akrinabade, who then pulled King down to the turf (first frame below). The combination of King's knee hitting turf and awkward landing and Akrinabade's right hand pushing forward helped jar the ball loose from King (second frame below), and Little Giant defensive lineman Clegg (66, far right in second frame) fell on the ball in the end zone. The officials ruled it a fumble, and a Wabash recovery and touchdown. 

Above: At halftime, with Wabash comfortably ahead, the DePauw University Poms dance team executed a spirited routine that entertained the crowd.

Above: Returning to the field for the second half, Tiger players locked arms in solidarity, perhaps to help inspire a reverse of fortune on the gridiron.
Above: DePauw's Nikko Sansone (4) lunges for extra yardage at the end of his only pass reception of the game, for 9 yards. Making the tackle is Wabash's Austin Hodges (2).

Above: King fires a pass to the Tigers' D.J. Steward (8), who made the reception for a 9-yard gain. 

Above: A blitzing Wabash defensive back bears down on DePauw quarterback Will King in hopes for a sack. King managed to get the pass off just before the rusher crashed into him. 
Above: Wabash quarterback Andy Walsh (11) hurdles several DePauw defenders en route to a 4-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run that concluded scoring in the game.
Above: Members of the Wabash College Sphinx Club kept watch over the Monon Bell along the sideline before and during the game, allowing fans such as this woman -- with a red "W" smeared on her abdomen -- to take a turn ringing the bell that did not silence until the field cleared well after the game ended.

Above and remaining images below: Scenes from the postgame celebration, beginning with the joyous expressions on the faces of Sphinx Club members, followed by the fan spillover onto the field; the players' hoisting the bell above the crowd and everyone reaching to touch it; and a return of the bell to the turf, where more people -- players and fans alike -- could get a turn to sound the prized trophy.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic shots... I could feel the energy and excitement!!!!!
    Can't wait to see the next go round.