As this week has gotten closer, I’ve been asked the same question over and over again. “Do you think we really have a shot to win the bell this year?”
That really means something to me because it shows just how far the DePauw football program has come since I got to Greencastle in the Fall of 2013. Head coach Bill Lynch is responsible for that change because he’s given the DePauw community more than a winning football team.
He’s given it something to be proud of, and this year, he’s going to give it the Monon Bell.
Changing the culture around the program has been no easy task. In 2013, we didn’t expect the Tigers to win, and honestly, I don’t think we really even cared that much. The culture of losing had taken it’s toll on the program.
But now we have something to be proud of.
This DePauw football team is far different than the one that lost by 17 points at home in 2013 and the one that played scared in Crawfordsville a year ago. This time around, the Tigers have a squad that can finally match up with the skill level of the team on the other sideline.
Just look at the statistical breakdown. The Little Giants average 250 rushing yards per game, the Tigers average 235. They average 210 per game passing and we average 265. I understand that the Tigers and Little Giants have found themselves in different game situations, but the numbers here don’t lie.
The best thing for the Tigers to do, will be to come out and move the ball on their first possession. They don’t even have to get points, but to feel like they can move the ball against one of the best defenses in the country would go a long way in settling DePauw into the pace of the game.
The Tigers also can’t be afraid to give up some points on defense. Take some risks, send an extra blitzing linebacker or send in a cornerback from the outside. But giving up some points and turning the game into a shootout wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Tigers. This is an offense that is capable of matching their opponents performance.
However, the real key to this game will come down to the play of junior quarterback Matt Hunt. As is the case in all big games, teams win or die by the play of their quarterback and Hunt will need to step up and have a big day. There are two reasons why Hunt should be poised to have a big day.
The first is that he has a receiving core with several weapons. Hunt’s freshman year, the DePauw offense was based on throwing up jump balls to 6-foot-5 wide receiver and ex-basketball player Barry Flynn. The game plan for Wabash was simple: shut down Flynn and you stymie the DePauw offense. This year, Hunt has completed passes to 19 different receivers, with six of them having double digit receptions.
The second reason Hunt will step up is that the game is at home. Last year I thought the Tigers had the talent to win but played scared in a hostile environment in Crawfordsville. This time around they’ll have plenty of experience and a home crowd behind them.
No one ever said this would be easy, but it’s time for the Tigers to get back on track in this rivalry. I’ve watched the program change since Lynch’s return to the program and it’s time to cap off the transformation with a win in the bell game.
Here’s to you, Old DePauw.
DePauw 31, Wabash 27.