The Bell is Back! Wabash storms back from down 21-0 to win 127th Monon Bell Classic

Wabash outscored DePauw 42-14 after being down 21-0 in the first quarter to win the 127th annual Monon Bell Calssic in front of a sold out crowd of 8,400 people in the new Little Giant Stadium. Photo Courtesy of Wabash College Athletics

As you enter Frank Navarro field at Wabash College, there’s a sign above the entrance that asks one simple question, ‘Did Wabash Win?’

It was a long awaited return for the 127th rendition of the Monon Bell Classic on Saturday, but after 729 days Wabash an DePauw took the field once again in the battle for the bell.

Early the visitors from Greencastle had all of the momentum as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, capitalizing on two Little Giant turnovers.

But then the script changed in a drastic way. As DePauw was driving deep in Wabash territory and the score read 21-7 Tigers, senior defensive back Kamron Ferguson intercepted DePauw quarterback Chase Andries at the seven yard-line. After that play it was all Little Giants as they would outscore DePauw 35-14 the rest of the way to win the 127th Monon Bell Classic 42-35.

“Momentum in this game especially is everything,” Wabash coach Don Morel said. “Our kids did a tremendous job of staying together and fighting through adversity. This is clearly our biggest win of the year, because it’s our number one goal every season is to win this game no matter what.”

Ferguson, playing in his last Monon Bell game, despite the score early on had full confidence in not only himself, but in the entire defense that they would step up.

“I knew that I just had to go out there and make a play,” Ferguson said of his game-changing interception. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but at the end of the day I have trust and faith in every one of these guys next to me that we can get the job done and we came out here in our biggest game and did just that. I really think about all of the seniors that have been with me through my four years here. Being our last year we had to give it our all and I’m just happy that we went out there and fought and brought the bell back home.”

Ferguson also intercepted a Tiger Hail Mary attempt as the first-half expired to give him two interceptions in his final Monon Bell game.

“We had to start putting pressure on DePauw because coming in they were the better team than us,” Morel said. “It thought after that opening quarter we started to do that really well and it paid off.”

Wabash got on the board early in the second quarter as sophomore quarterback Liam Thompson sneaked it in from one yard out. Later in the quarter with the Little Giant defense still holding serve, Wabash marched down the field with under a minute left in the half. Once again at the one-yard line the Little Giants dialed up a jet sweep to Heisman Skeens who sprinted in untouched to make the score 21-14 at halftime.

“We really didn’t make too many adjustments on offense, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot there in the first quarter,” Thompson said. “We stuck to our game plan and eventually it started to click once we stopped making mistakes.”

With the way the Little Giants lost in the Monon Bell Classic two seasons ago, then COVID-19 canceling last year’s game, this victory for the Little Giants makes up for long lost time.

“This redeems some of things and other shortcomings that we had this season,” Thompson said. “It was our championship game today and it felt great to bring the bell back.”

Wabash ran for 232 yards in the game, 137 of which came from Donovan Snyder. Snyder sent the sold-out crowd of 8,400 fans into a frenzy early in the fourth quarter as he broke away for a 37-yard touchdown to put the Little Giants in front for the first time in the game.

Senior tight-end Jackson Clayborne had arguably the play of the game however for Wabash. Leading 34-28 and facing a fourth-and-goal from inside the one yard-line, Morel decided to go for the knockout punch. Thompson faked as if he was going to run it in and instead did a little jump pass and found Clayborne who sneaked behind the Tiger defense for the score.

“Coach Morel looked at me, and asked if I was ready,” Clayborne said. “We had practiced that play all week and thankfully it worked.”

“Our kids our confident down there,” Morel added on the decision to go for the score. “They feed off of me and the coaches believing in them that we’ll execute it.”

Clayborne like Ferguson played in his last Monon Bell game and to leave an impact like this senior class did is something that Clayborne and the rest of the senior class won’t soon forget.

“We’re truly family,” Clayborne said of the senior class. “We went through a lot especially with not playing last year. We’ve come such a long way and it’s great to end it on a high note.”

Clayborne hauled in two touchdowns in his final Bell game, the first was late in the third quarter to even up the score at 28-28.

Morel mentioned the impact that the senior class had in this game. Not only did they step up in their final Bell game, but they will leave with a 3-1 record in their four games played.

“Your record in this game defines your experience at Wabash College,” Morel said. “Those kids can say they had a winning record and that’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Wabash ends their 2021 campaign with a record of 7-3 (6-3 NCAC). Wabash fans, coaches, players and the entire Crawfordsville community can rest easy for another year, knowing the Monon Bell is back where it belongs.