129th Monon Bell Classic

129th Monon Bell Classic Preview: Wabash and DePauw meet with everything on the line


Bring the Bell back home. That’s been the focus of Wabash College Football ever since their first practice of the season and now on Saturday afternoon in front of their home fans, Wabash has that chance. The 129th annual Monon Bell Classic kicks off Saturday at Little Giant Stadium and not only will the prestigious Monon Bell be at stake but also a North Coast Athletic Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Division III Playoffs. Wabash comes into the game with a record of 7-2 (6-1 NCAC) while the No. 22 ranked DePauw Tigers come in un-beaten with a 9-0 (7-0) mark.

Everyone at Wabash remembers how last season’s Bell Game went down with the Tigers suffocating defense dominating the Little Giants in what ended up a 49-14 DePauw victory. With everything at stake and wanting to avenge last season’s loss, Wabash has been laser focused this week and knows the game will be a war until the very end.

“We’re not even talking about the playoffs or the conference title, our sole focus in winning the Monon Bell game and bringing back here to Wabash,” Little Giant coach Don Morel said. “That’s what our guys have to focus on and they’ve done a great job of being dialed in. Last year they took it to us and they were mad and a good football team. I think we’ve raised the level of our program this year. We’re much better on defense (23.1 point per game compared to 33.9 last year) and it’s going to be a fantastic football game on Saturday.”

Wabash’s offense is one of the most electric in all of Division III. Led by senior Liam Thompson, Wabash’s offense is putting up 42.2 points per game and averaging just a tick over 500 yards per game (273 pass, 227 rush). Thompson on the season has thrown for 2,317 yards and 25 TD’s while completing nearly 71% of his throws (175-247). He’s also very electric when taking off running with 664 yards and 10 more TD’s. The Little Giants have a three-headed monster catching passes from Thompson. Senior Derek Allen Jr. has 780 yards and 12 scores and has big play ability written all over him. Cooper Sullivan broke the Little Giants career yards mark last week at Hiram and has 616 yards on just 35 catches. Rounding out the trio is All-American Tight End Penn Stoller who has 450 yards and six touchdowns.

“Since the minute the game ended last year, this is all we’ve been thinking about,” Thompson said. “We’ve all put in a ton of work since that moment to get back to this point. We’re approaching this game as a playoff game for us because we know if we don’t win our season is over. This game always means everything to us and then when you add it’s for the conference championship and a trip to the playoffs, we’re just excited to be in this opportunity again.”

While the Wabash offense is elite, so is the Tigers defense. They rank third in D3 against the run holding teams to just 46.2 yards on the ground. Their overall defense holds opponents to just 12.1 points per game which is the 17th best in D3. Their 240 yards per game rank 15th. The Tigers secondary has been a big part of their success as well picking off 13 passes this season. Local product of Western Boone, Luke Marsh leads the Tigers with 54 .

“They’re like the ‘85 Chicago Bears,” Morel joked when talking about how to prepare for the Tigers defense. “We’ve improved as an entire team since that game last year and I know our kids can’t wait. This group of seniors really wants to leave a legacy in their final Bell Game and so does DePauw. Someone always has to be on the losing side of this game and that’s the risk you take when sign up to play in this game.”

There are multiple records that some Little Giants are closing in on. Thompson is 32 yards away from breaking the NCAC career passing yards record, and just 176 yards to break the all-time record for the Little Giants. Allen’s 12 TD’s are just five away from the single-season record for the Little Giants which is held by Ryan Short’s ‘03 17 touchdowns in 2002.

Two years ago in the very first Monon Bell Game held at Little Giant Stadium, Wabash overcame a 21-0 deficit to defeat their rivals. The 129th rendition is officially sold out as Morel and Thompson knows their team will hopefully be able to enjoy the home field advantage.

“The crowd support is going to be awesome and it’s typically worth a few points,” Morel said. “We’re going to need everyone and our guys came to Wabash to play in a game like this and to play in an environment like what it will be here on Saturday.”

“We’ve only had four chances to play in front of these fans so we take every advantage of it when we can,” Thompson added. “We have to focus though on what we do on the field and being extremely prepared to go to war for four quarters.”

The 129th Monon Bell Classic will kick off from Little Giant Stadium at 1:07 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ISC Sports Network with Greg Rakestraw and company. With everything on the line, Wabash wants to bring the bell back where it belongs.