Tigers' Monon Streak Ends on Miracle Finish (Feature)

Tigers' Monon Streak Ends on Miracle Finish (Feature)

November 10, 2001

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By Mike Lillich  


Coach Nick Mourouzis addresses the troops after the Tigers' last-second loss to Wabash. (photo: Seth Rossman)

November 10, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. - Wabash College took the Monon Bell back to Crawfordsville with a move that makes disguised Mexican diplomats look positively sophomoric. It all came down to the last play of the game, the clock reading 0:00 by time Little Giant quarterback Jake Knott's desperation 52-yard pass was winging its impossible way to the north end zone.

But somehow it got there, and somehow Wabash's Ryan Short, who had played big all day, tipped the ball backward into the arms of fellow wide receiver Curt
Casper. Wabash: 27, DePauw 21, bell heading north for the first time in six years.

The DePauw side, momentarily exhilarated by the Tigers' gritty drive to draw the game even at 21-21 with 19.7 seconds to play, fell silent, disbelieving.

Brady Tolliver '98, had just said, "You just never know with this (Monon Bell) game. You just never, never, know."

His words quickly became prophetic.

The game had been a tough go all day. Wabash played hard and looked to be a step quicker and a little hungrier in the first half. But DePauw hung in, through fumbles and adversity, made big plays at big times to go into the locker room down only 14-7 with the confidence that the team had taken the opponent's
best shot, and that the good guys would win the decisive fourth quarter.

You could have billed this game a quarterback duel. Both QBs have had record-breaking seasons, DePauw's Jason Lee having all-time season passing records,
Wabash's Knott even breaking the records of Chris Ings.

Other records: DePauw had a chance to bring home a record sixth-straight Monon Bell. Wabash came in with a 7-2 record , DePauw 5-4.

When it was over, Coach Nick Mourouzis assembled his charges on the field. They were mostly on one knee, eyes downcast, some players pacing in frustration.

"I feel sorry for the seniors," he said.

There were six DePauw seniors in the game, one injured. Playing that last game means something. It means everything. It's a passage into something else,
one of those life things — career, graduate school, travel, relationships — other former teammates have veered off into sooner and for good. Tomorrow,
football can't be everything. Tomorrow, there are only records and memories.

Or, that's what the players think. Coach Nick calls football the biggest fraternity on campus. And, in its own way, the most diverse. Guys who wouldn't
necessarily be around each other otherwise are centered on one goal - The Bell.

What it's really about, of course, is the relationships that will last years and years and years. Darel Lindquist, who wrote the words for the "Ballad of the Monon Bell," calls the shared experience "the brotherhood of the bell." He's talking about what happens on the football field and subsequently both with your own classmates and those from other classes ... and generations.

These seniors left with a 3-1 Monon Bell record. The Wabash seniors were 1-3.

"This game is never over until it's over," Coach Nick exhorted. "Now you freshmen and sophomores and juniors will know how much it takes for a total effort, how you have to leave it all on the field to win the Bell. We'll just have to start another streak.

"I'm just sorry it didn't go into overtime. That was one heck of a football game."

It was a great day to play a football game, too. Leaves, slightly faded but still about half on the trees in Central Indiana. Crisp and 60 degrees, 10 mph wind which gave the day an edge - as if this game needed it.

After Coach Nick had said his piece to the team, the students behind the fence had stayed around and gave the players a respectful round of applause.

Hear! Hear!