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GREENCASTLE — Wabash traveled to DePauw Saturday afternoon, and left without the Monon Bell.
In an instant classic, the Tigers stole the bell back from the Little Giants with a 17-13 win in the final seconds.
Wabash (7-3, 7-2 NCAC) kicker Schuyler Nehrig booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Little Giants a 13-10 lead with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter, only to watch DePauw quarterback Chase Andries hit Gavin Ritter four plays later for a 62-yard score to give the Tigers (6-4, 6-3 NCAC) their first lead of the game with 38 seconds left.
“It wasn’t one of those plays when we called it we expected a touchdown,” DePauw coach Bill Lynch said. “But Ritter made a great adjustment on the route, and Chase just made a great throw.”
The Little Giants moved the ball across mid-field on the final drive of the game, but freshman quarterback Liam Thompson was unable to get a clean throw off toward the end zone on the final play of the game.
Wabash entered the game as North Coast Athletic Conference Champions, and the favored team on paper, but for the second week in a row, the offense struggled.
“We are struggling on offense right now,” Little Giants coach Don Morel said. “They scored 17 points all game, it wasn’t the defense that lost the game. In my opinion it was the offense that struggled.”
The Little Giants failed to score an offensive touchdown in the loss — their only touchdown came on a scoop and score by David Marsh late in the first quarter. For the game, Wabash had just 201 yards of offense, and converted only 5-of-14 third downs.
“DePauw’s plan was to get you on first down, and make it second and eight or second and 12, and we were in a ton of those,” Morel said. “That hurt us.”
Lynch knew stopping the Little Giants run game was the Tiger’s best chance at the upset victory.
“We knew we were really going to have to try and stop the run, because Wabash is really good at running the football, and their young quarterback is outstanding,” he said.
Thompson struggled in his Monon Bell Game debut, connecting on 11-of-18 passing for 129 yards. Isaac Avant led the Little Giants with 78 rushing yards on 25 carries.
The Wabash defense held DePauw to 289 yards of total offense, but Ritter caught three balls for 110 yards, including the 62-yard score, and Will Harris added 78 yards on eight catches. While Wabash struggled on third down, DePauw converted 9-of-15 attempts for first downs.
The DePauw win is the first in the series since 2016, as Wabash leads the overall series 62-55-9.
The Tigers season ends on a high note, while Wabash has another chance to play football. They will travel to North Central for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
“We’ve been through some hard stuff at Wabash, and the sun will come up tomorrow, and we will get ready for the playoffs," Morel said.
126th Monon Bell Classic
DePauw 17, Wabash 13
W 7 0 3 3 — 13
D 0 7 0 10 — 17
W: David Marsh 23 yard fumble recovery (Jacob Handley kick), 3:13
D: Jarrod Stiver 7 yard run (Jack Brush kick), 5:21
W: Schuyler Nehrig 27 yard field goal, 4:04
D: Brush 28 yard field goal, 13:28
W: Nehrig 30 yard field goal, 1:36
D: Gavin Ritter 62 yard pass from Chase Andries (Brush kick), :38
Team Stats W D
Comp-Att-Int 11-19-0 16-24-1
Rushing Yards 72 79
Passing Yards 129 210
Total Yards 201 289
First Downs 17 15
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Rushing: W — Isaac Avant 25-78, Cooper Sullivan 1-6, Liam Thompson 17-(-12). D — Noah Jones 17-51, Jarrod Stiver 3-23 TD, Will Harris 3-16, Chris Valentine 1-(-3), Chase Andries 11-(-8).
Passing: W — Liam Thompson 11-18-129. D — Chase Andries 16-24-210 TD.
Receiving: W — Cooper Sullivan 4-59, Nick Hamman 2-24, Devon Anderson 1-17, Reis Thomas 1-12, Heisman Skeens 1-10, Ivan Martinez 1-4, Isaac Avant 1-3. D — Will Harris 8-78, Gavin Ritter 3-110 TD, Josh Major 2-14, Noah Jones 2-7, Cam Haynes 1-1.