The ABC's of the 112th Monon Bell Classic

A = ALCOHOL—Greencastle police strictly enforce the city’s open container law, so let’s get that out of the way first. Greencastle and Putnam County police forces will be in full force, as well as private security at the game. Be careful if and when you drink. Ride in fan buses or with designated drivers.

B = BELL—We’ve never seen it placed on a scale, but it is said to weigh over 300 pounds. The Bell itself is brass colored, though the cast iron stand is painted half red and half gold. The Bell was a gift from the Monon Railroad in 1932 as a trophy for the rivalry.

C = CHRIS CREIGHTON—Wabash’s coach is 3-1 in Bell games, winning his first three by scores of 27-21, 35-7, and 37-20. He lost last year’s game 14-7. He’s 2-0 in games in Greencastle.

D = DEPAUW—The Tigers are on a seven-game winning streak after opening the season with a loss to Wesley. Since that time, DePauw captured a share of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title with Trinity since the two teams did not play due to Hurricane Rita.

D also = DIRECTV—For the second year in a row, the Monon Bell Classic will air on DirecTV channel 321. The game is being produced by WHMB-TV (over-the-air channel 40 in Indiana; channel 7 on Crawfordsville cable).

E = ERIC SUMMERS—Wabash’s senior wide receiver (pictured at left) is on a roll, having caught 27 passes for 462 yards and four touchdowns in his last four games. "E" has three 100-yard receiving games in that stretch, and four on the season.

F = FORD—Wabash President Andy Ford will sit in the Blackstock Stadium stands for the last time as the school’s 14th president. In his first game he donned a commemorative Monon Bell jersey and showed spirit of life-long Little Giants. This year he will be saluted on television between the third and fourth quarters of the game.

G = GENTLEMAN’S RULE—Use your heads: Indecent T-shirts and banners will not be allowed in the game; screaming obscenities at officials will get you tossed out; drunken, disorderly conduct will earn you the weekend in the Greencastle clink; tearing up Blackstock Stadium after a Wabash victory will similarly get you arrested. Be Gentlemen and celebrate in Crawfordsville.

H = HARBAUGH—Russ Harbaugh starts his third Monon Bell Game Saturday, and is the current North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Week for completing 19-of-20 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns vs. Denison. He is one of the ten most efficient passers in Division III with a rating of 180.2, and is the odds-on favorite to be named NCAC Player of the Year.

I = IMAGINATION—Big games like the Monon Bell Classic tend to make coaches get conservative. However, if the opportunity arises, look for Coach Creighton or Coach Rogers to get imaginative. At Ohio Wesleyan, Coach Creighton ran two gadget plays. Last week against Rose-Hulman, tailback Jeremiah Marks threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Ross Wiethoff. IMAGINE a purposely tipped pass going for a touchdown late in a game? Nah, that would never happen.

J = JEREMIAH—Jeremiah Marks (photo at right) is the fuel for DePauw’s offensive engine. The 6-0, 207-pound sophomore is a load and comes into the Bell Game with 850 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Discount two games when he was sick, Marks has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season, and is coming in off a 162-yard thrashing of Rose-Hulman. Oh yeah, and he had 87 vs. Wabash as a rookie.

K = KICKING GAME—Coach Creighton thinks this game will come down to special teams and turnovers. Wabash kicker Chad Finley hit 7-of-7 extra points and a 31-yard field goal last week. For the year he’s 32-of-41 on extra points, 5-of-7 on field goals, with a long of 43 yards. DePauw counters with Tyler Mallory, who is 30-of-34 on extra points and 5-of-8 on field goals, but has not hit a field goal longer than 30 yards. Finley averages 39.2 yards per punt, while DePauw’s Jon Williams averages 36.3.

L = LINEBACKERS—Pound for pound, man for man, Wabash’s linebackers are probably the fastest, most dominant, experienced group to take the field for Wabash in recent history. Seniors Josh Foster, Aaron Selby, Tim Parker, and Pete Kempf are all multiple letter winners and each has played in at least two Monon Bell Games. Oh, and then there is Adrian Pynenberg, the sophomore (see "P" below).

M = MYTH—The Wabash-DePauw rivalry is NOT the oldest continuous rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains. There are rivalries older and more continuous than the Monon Bell Game. It might be, could be, the oldest continuous SMALL COLLEGE rivalry west of the Alleghenies. But just bag it and call it what it is: "The best damned rivalry anywhere."

N = NO—There is NO truth to the rumor that Blackstock Stadium was once an unfinished basement. Okay, so we borrow that one from Dick Ristine, Wabash ’41 who refers to Blackstock as "having all the charm of an unfinished basement." But with a cemetery view, Dick.

O = OFFENSE—Wabash enters the Bell Game averaging 486 yards and 38 points per game, while DePauw averages 384 yards and 33 points per game. Still, the offenses are likely to take a back seat to defense this week. Wabash’s NCAC-leading defense gives up just nine points, 67 rushing yards, and 249 yards per game. DePauw’s defense has held teams to 10 points or less four times, and gives up just 12 points and 270 yards per game. Anybody remember that 7-2 game in 1995? Or last year’s 14-7 tilt?

P = PYNENBERG—Wabash’s defense is led by sophomore linebacker Adrian Pynenberg (pictured at left). He’ll lead the Little Giants in total tackles for the second straight year (72 coming into the Bell Game), while adding 15.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions, and a forced fumble. He’s a force. If he’s able to shed blocks and bring down Jeremiah Marks for short gains, things turn in favor of Wabash.

Q = QUIT—Quit analyzing stats and records. The Monon Bell Classic comes down to will and determination. Former assistant coach Max Servies used to say it’s all about "blocking and tackling." Coach Creighton says "special teams and turnovers." Former DPU coach Nick Mourouzis said it is "a game for the seniors." Hogwash. Which ever team wants it the most, who executes plays as practiced, will win.

R = ROSS WIETHOFF—DePauw’s senior quarterback is a multi-talented athlete who can beat teams with his arm (1,007 yards and five touchdowns) or with his legs (400 yards and three touchdowns). He’s scored on long touchdown runs against Wabash in each of the last two years. Last year’s 40-yard TD run provided the Tigers with the game’s first score.

S = SELBY—Aaron Selby (pictured at right), the oft-injured Little Giant linebacker, is healthy for this year’s Monon Bell Classic and is ready for anything. If Pynenberg is the team’s defensive stopper, Selby is its heart and soul. His 29 tackles on the year are not awe-inspiring. His game-ending tackles on key plays vs. Wittenberg and Allegheny were eye-popping. If Selby’s name is being called frequently by the PA announcer Saturday, it’s a good sign for Wabash.

T = TAILGATING—We’ve had mixed signals from DePauw indicating that the lower, south lot at Blackstock Stadium will be first come, first served with the parking lot open at 8:00 a.m. That would provide a good tailgating spot for Wabash fans. However, there have also been reports that RVs will not be allowed in that lot and that RVs will park in a lot near the Peeler Art Center. More later.

U = UNDERDOG—Nope, not this year. With Wabash 9-0 and DePauw 7-1, there is no underdog this year. And since there is no common opponent, throw out the records, too. Both teams boast senior quarterbacks and talent-laden defenses. Nope, no underdog this year.

V = VICTORY—A victory for Wabash almost assures the Little Giants of two home playoff games. Wabash already has locked up the NCAC automatic bid to the tournament. A win over DePauw would likely give Wabash the number one seed in the North Region and thus two home playoff games. A victory for DePauw would likely get the Tigers into the playoffs, though it’s anyone’s guess if the Tigers would play in the South Region or be moved (for geographic reasons) to the North Region.

W = WABASH—Wabash won its second outright North Coast title last week with its 52-0 win over Denison and secured for the College its third trip to the NCAA Playoffs. In 1977, Wabash made it to the national championship game. In 2002, Wabash lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Mount Union. But Coach Creighton insists that nobody is talking playoffs this week—just DePauw.

X = X’s AND O’s—Wabash will execute a game plan similar to what it has done all year. A spread, West Coast style offense with gun-slinging Russ Harbaugh (that's him on the left) throwing to five, six, even seven different receivers. Three running backs will rotate through. Wabash’s defense will play base early, then come with linebacker blitzes as the game dictates. DePauw will counter with a hard-nosed rushing attack, using a fullback and tight end to bust open holes for Jeremiah Marks in Wabash’s smaller, but faster defense. Defensively, DePauw will use a variety of defenses, from cover 2 to cover 3 to man-to-man. Like Wabash, the Tigers will come with unpredictable blitzes as the down and distance dictate.

Y = YUCK—Anyone remember the weather in Greencastle two years ago? Driving rain throughout the game? Anyone remember the weather in Greencastle in 1995 (blizzard-like) and 1997 (sudden snow storm). What about 2001 when it was sunny and warm? So, bring your parka and gloves, sunscreen and baseball hat and be ready for any weather.

Z = ZERO—Tickets remain for the game. Buy ‘em on eBay for $50 and higher.