Wabash head coach Erik Raeburn seeks third straight Monon Bell

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Head coach of the Wabash College Little Giants football team, Erik Raeburn, is no stranger to coaching big games.

Raeburn was an assistant coach for Mount Union College during three straight NCAA Div. III football national titles from 1996 to 1998.

Now competing for his third straight Monon Bell, Raeburn understands the intensity of the rivalry in his fourth year at the helm for the Little Giants.

Led by an electrifying kickoff/punt returner and a multi-threat quarterback, Wabash won the NCAC title last week against Wittenberg University by a score of 28-17. In that game, the Wabash running game came to life, gaining 238 yards on the ground led by running back Tyler Holmes with 111.

For that game, the Wabash players played with lots of emotion, according to Raeburn, and poured out a lot of energy on the field.

"To have an emotional game, to win the conference championship, to achieve one of your team goals, you're always worried about a letdown after that," Raeburn said. "But this is about the only week that this isn't as big of a worry."

The main worry Raeburn has for his team heading into the 118th Monon Bell Classic is the excellent DePauw defense with which his offense must contend.

"They've had a lot of injuries on the offensive side, but defensively, week in and week out, they have played at a really high level," Raeburn said. "They are one of the best defenses in the country in the red zone, not allowing touchdowns."

The Tiger defense has allowed 17.2 points per game and just 94.8 yards on the ground.

The Wabash offense has averaged a gain of 170.7 yards on the ground which, according to Raeburn, is critical in the success of his offense and quarterback Chase Belton.

"When we have not been able to establish the run, we are inconsistent on offense," Raeburn said. "It was nice to bounce back last week and gain some yards rushing and get that game going. Hopefully, we will be able to maintain it, because we have struggled in that area."

With the running game firmly established with Holmes and Vann Hunt, who netted 85 yards, Belton was able to find wide receiver Wes Chamblee for a 21-yard vtouchdown and a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

If Belton and the run game can find holes, Raeburn thinks his 9-0 Wabash team can do what last year's 9-0 DePauw team could not do.

 "It's been my experience that the 9-0 team has little to no chance of winning the game," Raeburn said. "This will be my fourth one and twice there has been a 9-0 team and twice they have lost."

The Tigers technically enter the game as underdogs with a 4-4 record. But Raeburn knows that records do not mean much in the Monon Bell Classic.

"Throw out the records is the big cliche, but it has held true" Raeburn said. "But that's one of the reasons why this rivalry is so good. It's been so even and our guys know, just like last year, one way to salvage your season is to win the Bell game."