Wabash Rally Comes Too Lateby Howard W. Hewitt • November 15, 2008
Wabash College couldn’t wrestle the Monon Bell away from the DePauw Tigers Saturday, falling 36-14 on a cold and damp Saturday afternoon. The Tigers picked off four passes and dominated the first half to close their season at 8-2 in the 115th battle for the Monon Bell.
Wabash (9-1) will need to regroup for the NCAA Division III playoffs next Saturday. The Little Giants will learn their opponent Sunday afternoon when the Division III playoff brackets are announced. The all-time Wabash-DePauw series is now tied at 53-53-9.
The second quarter was largely the difference in the Bell game when the Tigers twice picked off Matt Hudson passes and scored three touchdowns.
The game opened by Wabash marching downfield with Evan Sobecki running the ball, but had a blocked field goal end the drive with nothing to show for it. DePauw wasted little time going at the Little Giants and picking up three points on Jordan Havercamp’s 25-yarder.
The Tigers took command late in the first quarter by picking off a Hudson pass and returning it 30 yards to set up the game’s first touchdown. Spud Dick hit Chris Gasbarra for the score, 10-0. Steve Valdiserri then picked off Hudson on the first play of the next Wabash drive to set up the Tigers up again. They went on a long drive of 10 plays for 60 yards with Jon Ellis scoring from a yard out to make it 16-0.
The back-breaker came after Wabash forced a DePauw punt with three minutes remaining in the half. The Little Giants took over, but on Hudson’s second attempt Paul Obur intercepted a pass and took it 32 yards for the score and a 23-0 halftime advantage.
"The biggest problem is we turned the football over on offense and we couldn’t stop them on defense," Coach Erik Raeburn said. "Their quarterback had a huge day and he was great on third down or we were terrible on third down. We just had an awful second quarter and dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of."
Tiger junior quarterback Spud Dick hit on 24-of-29 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Hudson threw for 262 yards on 25 of 43 attempts but the second quarter picks were the game changer.
"Kody kind of lost his footing (on the first pick) and I maybe put the ball a little bit high, and the kid picked it off," Hudson said of the first interception.
"On the second one, they rolled coverages and I thought I was going to have to thread it in there quick. I threw it before Kody turned around and we just weren’t on the same page. On the third one, they started rolling in different coverage over to Kody’s side. They only had three down linemen and thee linebackers so they basically had eight guys playing the pass which at that point we’re down 16-0 and I made just a bad decision on throwing.
"It was a bad day, bad day all around."
If the Little Giants were hoping to re-group at halftime, DePauw dug the hole a little deeper on its first possession moving the ball 52 yards in eight plays with Dick hitting Alex Koors for a four-yard score to make it 30-0.
The Little Giants got on the board with a 69-yard drive and Hudson carrying the ball 15 yards for the touchdown. After Rich Lehmann sacked Dick and recovered the fumble, Little Giants struck again. They moved the ball 39 yards in six plays with Evan Sobecki carrying from two yards out to put a stir back into the big Wabash crowd, making it 30-14.
DePauw was able to add a 42-yard Havercamp field goal before Wabash’s last realistic hope had expired. The Little Giants moved the ball to the DePauw nine and on fourth down Hudson executed a beautiful bootleg and appeared to have free sailing into the endzone. But Kyle Sherer caught Hudson by the foot to trip him up and end the Little Giant comeback.
"I thought we had it," Raeburn said Hudson’s run. "I was looking to see if they were going to drop off in coverage. I thought we had them for a score and next thing they have him on the ground. I was watching the weak side safety and I thought we had it. Their guy made a great play."
The Little Giants played hurry-up most of the fourth quarter with a final interception and easy DePauw score closing out the game.
"They didn’t make mistakes," running back Evan Sobecki said. "It was halftime and Spud Dick was 13 for 16. He played a great game. He didn’t make any mistakes today. Their running back ran well, held on to the ball and didn’t turn it over. That was biggest thing, they kept the ball from us."
Ellis had a net 100 yards rushing on 37 carries to complement Dick’s passing game. The overall statistics were closer than the score might indicate. Wabash out-gained DePauw 341-304 in total offense, had more passing yards 262-227, and 79-77 yards rushing.
The interceptions and conversions were the difference in the game. DePauw converted nine of 14 third downs compared to Wabash’s four of 11. Wabash failed on three fourth down conversion attempts. DePauw scored all five times it entered the red zone while Wabash was just two of five.
Bryan Watson and Josh Gangloff led the Wabash defense with nine stops each. Rich Lehman and Chad Peterman had eight apiece.
Raeburn was left after the game to reflect on his first Bell experience and getting ready for next week.
"It’s a great atmosphere," the coach said. "If you’re a coach or player at either of the two schools you have to cherish and feel pretty fortunate you get to take part in a game like this. I can’t imagine there is any other D-3 school and their players who get to play in these type of games."
The Little Giants will learn their first-round opponent Sunday and whether Saturday’s loss cost them a home playoff game. "We certainly would have rather won and go into playoffs with some momentum," Raeburn said. "Hopefully this will put an edge on our guys. They’re mad and disappointed and they’ll work real hard this week and hopefully correct some of our mistakes and get back on track."