Jim Amidon — The Monon Bell rings in Greencastle this morning, the result of the DePauw Tigers’ stirring 24-21, last-second victory over the Wabash Little Giants in Saturday’s 114th Monon Bell Classic.
For many of the 8,000 fans on hand, the moment at the end of the game was eerily similar to the 2001 game when Wabash broke a tie with a Hail Mary pass with 2.7 seconds left to win the Monon Bell.
Exactly six years to the day later, DePauw returned the favor with a 47-yard field goal with 2.4 seconds left to capture the victory.
While my heart aches for the Little Giants, particularly the amazing seniors, games like Saturday’s contest are the stuff of legend; they are the reason the Monon Bell rivalry is without question the finest rivalry game in the land.
The win closed the gap in the overall series to 53 wins for Wabash, 52 for DePauw, and nine ties. It can’t get much closer. And the rivalry certainly can’t get much more intense.
It truly was a classic game — a terrific college football game on a warm and golden Saturday in November. If there are football gods, they were smiling on the Monon Bell Classic Saturday.
The stars on both teams shined brightly, even brilliantly from start to finish. Wabash’s sophomore quarterback Matt Hudson, playing in his first bell-ringer, was fantastic in throwing for 322 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another score.
Senior receiver Mike Russell, who has provided so many memorable plays in his career, caught eight passes for more than 150 yards and two of his long receptions set up Wabash touchdowns.
Wabash’s All-American linebacker Adi Pynenberg (pictured right with Coach Creighton), who provided what would have been the play of the game had Wabash won, was nothing short of spectacular. The Little Giants’ all-time leading tackler posted a game-high 19 tackles, two behind the line, and played the entire second half with a stinging sore shoulder.
The shoulder injury? The result of a bruising blow he delivered in the final seconds of the first half when he stopped fullback Brett Claxton short of the goal line on what appeared to be an easy DePauw touchdown. The Tigers did not score, failing on fourth down while Pynenberg’s aching shoulder was being examined.
On the other side of the field was Crawfordsville native Matt Walker earning his first Monon Bell victory as a coach, a prideful moment for the whole Walker family. His star runner, Jeremiah Marks, could not have been better running or catching passes from quarterback Spud Dick.
Even though I am a true Little Giant fan, Marks’ performance was one of the best I’ve seen in my 25 Monon Bell games. That performance, overshadowed somewhat by the game-ending field goal, will vault Marks’ name into Monon history with the likes of Huntsman, Harvey, Parker, Broecker, Bevelhimer, Kaiser, Kogan, Knott, and Short (all Wabash players, of course, but like I said, I’m biased).
Nothing would have been sweeter than to have heard the Monon Bell echoing throughout Crawfordsville Saturday night. But no team ever seems to dominate this particular rivalry and Wabash had been 5-1 in Bell games under brilliant head coach Chris Creighton.
And to be honest, it was just a great college football game with big plays, a sold-out stadium, the star players stepping up time and time again, and fantastic drama until the very end.
Congratulations to the Tigers on a great victory.
Congratulations to the Little Giants, who played like the champions they are. And those same Little Giants will have at least one more opportunity to play for their rabid fans when they host a first round playoff game this Saturday for the third time in six years.
As they have all year, they’ll take it one game at a time with a goal of going 1-0 this weekend.
The Bell may not be ringing here this morning, but Wabash is still in the running for the national championship. And that’s got a nice ring to it.