For the first time in 33 years a group of Wabash seniors have run the table against DePauw. The Little Giants pummeled DePauw's Tigers on the ground for a 23-0 win in the 119th Monon Bell Classic.
Wabash's senior class becomes the tenth group to go 4-0 in Bell games. The Class of 2013 may have a record of domination unsurpassed at 147-26 scoring differential, including two shutouts in the four -game run.
Wabash simply overpowered the visiting Tigers on one of the warmest and nicest days in recent Bell game history. The Little Giants rushed for an incredible 275 yards behind Tyler Holmes' 169-yard effort to DePauw's mere 35. Wabash notched its third shutout of the year.
Holmes dives for the goal line and a touchdown.
"Obviously, our defense played fantastic again," Coach Erik Raeburn said. "We did a good job on offense running the ball and not turning it over. I'm certainly disappointed with all the penalties in the first half; that really killed some drives.
"To be able to graduate from Wabash without a loss in the Bell game is really special. I know all the guys on the team and all the coaches wanted to make sure our seniors ended their careers at Wabash the right way. And we want to thank them for all they've done to help build our program."
It was a game of mistakes for Wabash with 8 first quarter penalties and 6 more in the second quarter. The Little Giants ended with a season-high 18 flags for 133 yards. DePauw's defense was stout at times but worn down with a nearly 2-1 time of possession differential, 39:46-20:14.
Heroes are always plentiful in the Bell battle but Saturday's leading man was clearly Tyler Holmes. The 225-pound junior running back compiled 169 yards on 30 carries and earned Wabash's first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2003.
"I feel honored to be a part of that and get that milestone, but I tell everyone that our offensive line and receivers' blocking has been amazing. I have to give it up to those boys."
Holmes even admitted the last few weeks have been difficult with injuries to the other running backs and nagging injuries.
"Now that the season is over, I'm not going to lie to you guys anymore … I'm hurt and hurting pretty bad. My knee has been tweaked, my shoulder, just a compilation of things but it was last game and it's the Bell game so I had to come out here no matter what and fight through it."
Akinribade and Scola on the big hit.
Raeburn saluted his bruising ball-carrier and lamented not being able to give him more rest.
"He hasn't been able to finish the two previous games," Raeburn said, who improved his personal record to 4-1 against DePauw. "But with all the injuries we've had at running back, Tyler has had to really carry the load and not get as much of a breather as we were able to give him earlier in the season. Every week we've not been sure he was going to be able to play but on Saturdays he guts it out and does a great job for us."
Wabash's penalties and DePauw's inability to move the ball got the game off to a very slow start. The Little Giants finally got on the board mid-way through the second quarter. Quarterback Chase Belton his Houston Hodges for 20 yards, a pass interference call against the Tigers, then a 13-yard strike to Sean Hildebrand at the back edge of the end zone got points on the board, 6-0.
Wabash was able to add three more before the half on a 37-yard Ian MacDougal field goal, 9-0.
The Little Giants put together the nicest drive of the game on their first third quarter possession. Holmes carried the ball nine times for 47 yards the final nine for diving touchdown, 16-0. Wabash's possession was aided by a critical DePauw roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Wabash 33 that kept the Little Giants in business.
Senior running back Troy Meyers capped the game with a 5-yard scoring run with only three minutes to play, 23-0.
Besides the lopsided rushing, penalty, and time of possession totals, Wabash accounted for 432 yards of total offense to the Tigers' 142. Chase Belton closed out his Wabash career with 37 yards on the ground, hitting 10-of-24 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Sean Hildebrand had three catches for 33 yards and newcomer Jon Laird had two receptions for 67 yards. Laird admitted some butterflies before his first Bell game but after things got underway it was just football. "Whether it was blocking or moving the chains, I just wanted to help the offense go," the junior college transfer said.
Hodges returning the pick.
Freshman Justin Woods led Wabash with 7 tackles, Nate Scola added 6. AJ. Akinribade had 5 stops with Denzel Wilkins, Cody Buresh, and J.T. Henninng. Austen Hodges had an interception.
DePauw struggled running and passing the ball. Drew Seaman and Justin Murray combined to connect on just 16 of 38 passes with on interception for 107 yards.
The Tigers closed at 2-8. Wabash ended 8-2. The Wabash seniors were disappointed not to be continuing to the playoffs but embraced four years of Bell perfection – despite the penalties or the esthetic appeal Saturday's game.
"That's all that matters to me; I don't care if it's 2-0 at the end of the game as long as it says Wabash won today I'm happy," senior cornerback Austin Hodges said. It's awesome. I don't think it has set in yet. It's my last game ever and winning the Bell, my emotion is all over the place."
Wabash leads at 57-53-9 overall against DePauw and 38-37-6 in Monon Bell game.