A Classic Bell-Ringer

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.

  1. I have a question

    This question occurred to me this morning while I was reliving the thrilling ending to Saturday’s game in my mind. Why is it the Depauw student’s were allowed to charge the field and celebrate, whereas last year I had to watch the horrible sight of Wabash students getting maced by security when they tried to do the same thing? Thank goodness the macings weren’t shown on HDNet…

  2. Jim: Thank YOU for all the work you have done so that we who live too far to get to the games can see what happened. I almost feel like I’ve been there with your pictures and descriptions.
    And, yes, it was a heartbreaker for us, but what a great game. I will be there for the playoffs, and I sing loud praise for Coach Creighton and every one of the Little Giant Football family!
    J B

  3. Thaddeus Seymour

    Thanks, Jim, for this compelling account of that GREAT football game and its aftermath. With your usual sensitivity and insight, you have put Saturday afternoon, and the whole season, into the right perspective. Watching the game in a local saloon with other loyal fans here in Florida, I could not have been more proud of our Little Giants. WABASH ALWAYS FIGHTS! Now it’s on to the Stagg Bowl. Thad

  4. I watched the telecast, and it reminded me of the 1954 or 1955 game down at DePauw. We lost that one also in the last seconds to (I think) a 23 yard field goal. It is amazing that I felt just as bad last Saturday as I did after that game 50+ years agl. Joe Michael

  5. Dave Burleigh '99

    How can you leave out Ings from the list of legends? Great article otherwise.

  6. Jim, that was a great post, even if you did give some credit to DePauw. I agree with Dave Burleigh about Chris Ings being included in the long list of Monon Bell heroes. Who can forget the home game where he led Wabash to the game tying field goal (which kept the Bell in Crawfordsville) while hobbling on a leg with torn knee ligaments? AND, of most importance, he led Wabash to a come from behind win in the 100th game…thus breaking a 45-45-9 tie and giving Wabash victory for the first one hundred years of the rivalry!! Dale Smith ’78

  7. Dave and Dale — Great point about Ings, one of my favorite Little Giants of all time. Rattled off the list pretty quickly and somehow left him out, but he certainly ranks near the very top of all-time Monon Bell heroes with a 3-0-1 Bell record. He tells a great story about his decision to attend Wabash and how the DPU coach took it; sufficed to say, there were tears on the Ings’ doorstep that night. I think his most compelling performance was the snowy game of 1995 when he accounted for eight of the nine total points scored in the game — Wabash’s touchdown on an amazing, diving play and the DPU safety. Wabash 7, DePauw 2. A strangely wonderful game.

  8. Chris Braun '81

    Jim, thank you for your excellent article. As someone who was able to attend the game on this glorious fall afternoon, you accurately captured the essence of this wonderful rivalry for the players, fans and alumni. It was a truly memorable game and well played by both teams. This rivalry represents what is great about college football played by true student athletes who put forth extraordinary effort on the field and are tremendous representatives of these two fine institutions. It is not surprising that these student athletes go on to lead honorable and accomplished lives. Your article puts this rivalry into its proper perspective and cherishes its special moments. Congratulations also to Coach Creighton and the outstanding football program that represents Wabash so well. Best regards, Chris Braun ’81.

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