As a current sophomore, I’ve only seen DePauw football on the rise.
Despite head coach Bill Lynch taking over the team in 2013, last season proved to be the Tiger’s year. While DePauw ultimately failed to win the Bell, they brought both respect and attention back to a program that had gone a combined 10-19 over the previous three seasons.
While the team was far from a finished product, DePauw posted their first winning record since 2010, and gave me and other Tiger fans hope for the following season; more specifically, Monon.
And now, it’s here.
On paper, Wabash appears to be the superior of the two teams heading into this weekend’s highly-anticipated matchup, and for good reason.
Their perfect 9-0 record and #3 regional ranking in Division III football is enough to prove intimidating to any program at this level.
Still, the Tigers have held their own this season, posting an 8-1 record while carrying a respectful #8 ranking.
But it hasn’t solely been statistics that’s brought DePauw within striking distance of the Little Giants. It’s also been time.
During the preseason, I met with Offensive Coordinator Brett Dietz to discuss what would be his expectations from junior quarterback Matt Hunt this year.
Before breaking down Hunt’s abilities, Dietz had made the point of saying how it usually took three years for a football player, more specifically a quarterback, to breakout and reach his full potential.
In regards to Hunt, Dietz’s prediction has been spot on, as Hunt has quickly become the face of the franchise in already surpassing his total yards and touchdowns from last season.
But now, not only do I see Dietz’s theory as relating to Hunt, but also to the program as a whole. And I’m not talking about talent, something that has been prevalent in the program since the beginning of the season.
I’m talking about mentality.
Last year’s game against Wabash in Crawfordsville proved the Tigers weren’t quite ready for the big spotlight, and I think much of that had to do with playing away from Blackstock stadium.
While this won’t be the case for this season’s Monon Bell game, it’s going to take more than just a packed stadium of Tiger fans to give DePauw the edge it needs.
After all, it’s Wabash, a team that has outscored the Tigers 226-86 dating back to 2008, the last time DePauw took home the Bell.
But throughout the course of this season, the Tigers have slowly but surely proved themselves as serious contenders, and their mental toughness has played a huge role in that success.
It’s mentality that helped DePauw keep Wittenberg from scoring in their final drive of what would end in a 35-30 Tiger’s victory back in early September.
It was mentality that held DePauw together after a loss to a sub-.500 Ohio-Wesleyan team over fall break, and then helped lead the Tigers to a comeback win over Denison on a last-minute field goal the following week.
And on Saturday, it’ll be mentality that helps the Tigers reclaim the Bell and send the Little Giants back to Crawfordsville empty handed.
DePauw 27 Wabash 24