Ring the Bell! Tigers Prevail over Little Giants 21-7
GREENCASTLE, IND. - You can describe all athletic contests with numbers. And, yet, finally sometimes the numbers conceal more than they illuminate.
Consider the last Monon Bell game of the century. Wabash put up more than 500 offensive yards. The Little Giants' freshman quarterback set a school record for passing yards (439), and a Wabash wide receiver set the school record for receiving yards (220). Wabash had 24 first downs to DePauw's 16.
But the Tigers won the game. And, to talk to the players and coaches, you come away believing that the DePauw defense won the game.
Consider these little numbers: DePauw won the giveaway-takeaway battle 4-1. Throw in that the Tiger defense held the intruders from the north to one of four fourth-down conversions and three of 14 third-down conversions.
The big numbers: The 21-7 final score; taking the lead in the series 49-48-9; winning the fourth Monon Bell game in a row; winning the series in the '90s.
And heart that you can't put a number on.
The game at Blackstock Stadium took place under sunny skies on a day that was more like spring than fall. From the Tigers' point of view, the game divided quite evenly: the offense won the first half by putting 21 points on the board; the defense shut the Little Giants down in the second half by coming up big in one challenging situation after another.
Assistant coach and former player Tim Hreha '73 was a happy man after the game. “You can't ask more than to get a fumble on a quarterback sneak.”
Which was what the Tigers' Frisky Williams did in Wabash's penultimate assault on the DePauw goal with 1:56 remaining.
“We knew they were going to sneak on fourth down because they'd done it on third and short,” Coach Hreha said. “We told our linebackers to go after him” [quarterback Jake Knott, son of former Wabash signal caller Dave Knott].
Knott, the younger, hit the center of the line, the DePauw defense hit him, popping the ball straight up, and Williams snagged it.
It should have been the last big play in an afternoon of big plays and big hits. It wasn't. Patrick Whinnery, playing hurt, intercepted a Knott pass with just over a minute remaining to seal the victory once and for all.
Even senior quarterback Kurt Hare, who threw two first-half touchdown passes, gave the defense credit in no uncertain terms: “The defense won the game for us today.”
One of Hare's touchdown passes went to freshman Dan Ryan, playing in his first Monon Bell. “It was unlike anything I've ever experienced in terms of intensity,” he said. “When I caught that pass with that guy draped all over me, the adrenaline took over and I made it into the end zone. This whole game runs on adrenaline.”
Junior Ryan McGuffey caught the other touchdown pass, a long, pretty, high arching, perfect spiral that he somehow ran under.
“Words can't describe what I was feeling,” McGuffey said. “I know I'll never forget it.”
When the team was in the huddle, getting ready for a two-point conversion, McGuffey told his teammates that the catch was for the seniors. “Coach [Nick Mourouzis] always says that this is a game for the seniors.”
Coach Nick, for his part, also talked about the “great second-half defensive effort ... and the kids “who left it all on the field.
“I told the players that the alumni are pulling for you, that they'd love to be in your shoes,” Mourouzis said.
So maybe it's not about the numbers, after all. It's about hanging in when the season starts with one victory and five defeats, about putting together a running game when the team's top runner never played a down, about building to a level of quiet confidence that the team exuded in the emotional week before the game and going out and doing it for your teammates and the DePauw football tradition.
This was vintage Monon Bell: No quarter asked, none given. Anyone who dismisses this as “small-college football” hasn't stood on the sidelines and heard the hits, hasn't talked to the players after the game and listened to them giving credit to everybody but themselves, hasn't seen the joy of the players, their families and the fans.
The first Monon Bell game of the new millenium takes place on Nov. 11, 2000 at Byron P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium in Crawfordsville. Why would you want to be anyplace else?