Mistakes Loom Large for Tigers in Another Monon Bell Game for the Ages

Greencastle, Ind. - The 124th gridiron meeting between DePauw and Wabash will no doubt go down as another classic as the fourth quarter alone took fans on a roller coaster of emotions that ended with the Little Giants reclaiming the Monon Bell with a 22-21 North Coast Athletic Conference victory on Nick Mourouzis Field at Blackstock Stadium.

DePauw linebacker Chandler Nicholson set the stage for the fourth by picking off Weston Murphy's pass at the DePauw 48 and streaking down the home sideline for a 52-yard pick six that gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead with 1:20 left in the third.

Wabash drove to the DePauw 36 on its next series, but was forced to punt and buried the Tigers at their own 1. Quarterback Jake Lasky moved the Tigers out of trouble with a 13-yard run on third down. A roughing the kicker penalty followed by a defensive pass interference call gave the hosts the ball at the Wabash 48. The Tigers picked up another first down but the drive stalled at the Wabash 29 when Brient Hicks stopped Lasky for a 2-yard loss on fourth and 1. 

The Little Giants picked up one first down and advanced to midfield before being forced to punt. DePauw's Andy Hunt fielded Alex Marr's boot at the DePauw 14 and scrambled backwards to try to find some running room, but Wabash's Leon Ivy stripped the ball and Jaleel Grandberry recovered at the DePauw 5.

It took Wabash just one play to score as Ike James ran it in for the TD. The Little Giants then converted their first two-point conversion of the season as Murphy connected with Kirby Cox who caught the low throw right on the goal line to give Wabash its first lead of the game at 22-21.

DePauw started its next series on its own 33 and Lasky picked up one yard on first down, but had to leave the game with an injury. Senior Nolan Ayres, a quarterback as a freshman but converted to receiver after his first year, entered as quarterback and went deep on his first snap but couldn't connect with Hunt. He then converted a third down with a 17-yard pass to Jake Hagan.

A false start penalty followed, but Ayres ran for 12 on the next play. After an incomplete pass on second down, Ayres again converted on third down with a 31-yard pass to Hunt at the Wabash 11. Ayres then kept it on the next play, but Ryan Walters forced a fumble that Henry Webberhunt recovered in the end zone for a touchback with 4:01 remaining.

The DePauw defense forced a three-and-out and and the Tigers got the ball back at their own 30 following a punt with 2:17 remaining. Ayres teamed with Hagan for an 8-yard gain on third down, but was stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth by Artie Equihua and Tim Fields. The Little Giants were then able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

DePauw scored the game's first points when the defense stopped Wabash on downs at the Little Giants 43. The Tigers drove to the Wabash 4 and James Deaton appeared to be headed for paydirt when Jeff Houston forced a fumble that DePauw left guard Andrew Saunders recovered for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 8:25 left in the first.

Wabash knotted the score at 7-7 on Ike James' 1-yard run just 56 seconds into the second, but Lasky connected with Hagan for a 10-yard score at the 8:20 mark of the second as DePauw regained the lead at 14-7.

The Wabash drive that followed would turn out to be one of the biggest series of the game as the Little Giants successfully converted fourth downs with fake field goal attempts that, in both cases, involved passes from holder and backup quarterback Austin Nightingale.

The second pass gave Wabash the ball at the 5 and James evened the score with runs of 3 and 2 yards, respectively.

DePauw outgained Wabash, 302-258, as the Tigers held the Little Giants to their lowest total offense output of the season and their second-lowest rushing effort at 119 yards.

Lasky paced DePauw with 91 of its 155 rushing yards and completed 10 of 23 passes for 99 yards. Ayres caught four for 57 yards and Hunt four for 53.

James paced Wabash with 79 yards and three touchdowns in 27 attempts with Isaac Avant following with 54 yards in 14 carries. Murphy completed 12 of 29 for 120 yards with four going to Ryan Thomas for 37 yards.

Matt Crupi paced DePauw's defense with 14 tackles, while Hunter Sego added nine and Zach Williams eight. Keivan Rahimi had 1.0 sacks with Crupi, Nicholson, Collin Cassady and Nate Orrison each sharing one. 

Evan Hansen led Wabash with 10 tackles and the team's only sack. Brian Parks broke up a game-high three passes.

Both squads finished the season with 8-2 overall records and 7-2 NCAC marks.