Ah, the Bell game: 122 years of bitter rivalry with Wabash combined with a six year losing streak for the Tigers has only fed the fire of our football players when it comes to the determination needed to secure that 300 pound locomotive bell for Old DePauw.
Could this be the year?
If the Tigers win the bell, sophomore running back Jack Gruber said: “In terms of football, we would be representing the NCAC in the playoffs for the first time in a long time. In terms of the DePauw Community, I think the campus will be nothing less than electric.”
The Tigers currently stand at 8-1 and are in a position to win the conference championship and possibly move on to compete in the NCAA playoffs. The only thing in their way—well the only thing that always seems to be in their way—is undefeated Wabash, who is ranked 3rd in the north region (DePauw is currently 9th).
“A DePauw victory would solidify their return to DIII prominence and relevance,” said sophomore WGRE play-by-play broadcaster Robert Sherman.
“Wabash,” Sherman continued, “frankly, is a monster of a football team and that's because they recruit some very talented players. DePauw has plenty of talent but everyone will tell you that they don't have the top to bottom talent Wabash does. Victory will allow that disparity, which is already significantly less than it was three years ago, to shrink even more.”
The last time the Tigers won the bell, Wabash was just as highly ranked as they are this year—and a fast start was the key to their victory.
“Wabash feasts off of playing with the lead and then shutting the door in the first half to coast to victory. They have only given up 9 points in the first quarter this entire season,” said Sherman.
One of the biggest problems for the Tiger offense will be the lack of starting running backs in Amen Galley and Jack Gruber, along with Ramon Lopez. While Jason Kirchhoff, who has eight touchdowns this season, is healthy, Wabash’s defense has shut down almost every opponent’s run game. They allow, on average, 39 yards of rushing a game.
Sherman offered some more insight, saying, “When I talked to Offensive Coordinator Brett Dietz, he said this game will be decided in the trenches. If DePauw can block Wabash effectively, this DePauw offense will flourish. Statistically this is the best DePauw offense in the history of the program. There are play-makers. If given their chance, they can spring some big plays on Wabash. It all starts with the big boys on the line, though.
Gruber also cites the mental status of the team as a key factor in the outcome of the game.
“We need to have a very focused week of practice,” he said. “The physical preparation will take care of itself, but we must be mentally sharp in all aspects of the game. Physical mistakes happen, but mental mistakes are preventable.”
Have no doubt; the Tigers will fight hard. There’s something about a rivalry game that brings talent and passion out of players they never knew they possessed.
“This game means so much to so many people,” said junior receiver Ian Good. “It will be a hard fought 60 minutes but we will be ready to do what it takes to get that bell back.”
The Monon Bell Game always means the most, but Gruber sees this year as becoming more than just the Bell.
“A win on Saturday could be the spark to the new DePauw Football program," said Gruber.