Little Giants Strike Quickly in Monon Bell Win over Tigers
Visiting Wabash scored touchdowns on each of its first five possessions and retained the Monon Bell with a 38-21 North Coast Athletic Conference win over DePauw on Nick Mourouzis Field at Blackstock Stadium.
The Little Giants, ranked 17th in Division III, improved to 9-1 overall and 8-1 in the NCAC, while the Tigers finished at 4-6 overall and 4-5 in the conference.
Wabash's defense helped set up its first score as the Tigers started on their own 15 after the opening kickoff and three Nikko Sansone runs netted zero yards.
The Little Giants' offense then started on the DePauw 48 and needed just seven plays to reach paydirt as Sean Hildrebrand scored on a reverse from 10 yards out.
DePauw crossed midfield on the next series as quarterback Matt Hunt picked up a first down on a 12-yard run and then completed a 15-yard pass to Barry Flynn for another. The Tigers were faced with fourth-and-two from the Wabash 37 and Sansone was stopped just shy of the first down marker.
On the next play, quarterback Michael Putko connected with Jon Laird for a 64-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 14-0.
Wabash worked with another short field later in the first as it started on its own 49 and needed six plays before Putko teamed with Sean Hildebrand for a 26-yard scoring pass with 52 seconds left to make it 21-0.
The Little Giants tacked on a fourth score early in the second when DePauw fumbled the punt snap and Wabash recovered at the DePauw 18. On the third play from scrimmage Putko tossed a 13-yard scoring pass to James Kraus.
DePauw responded this time with a nine-play, 67-yard series. A pair of Wabash penalties helped the Tigers as the Little Giants were called for roughing the kicker and pass interference that pushed the ball to the Wabash 4. Hunt's second-down pass found Flynn in the end zone to make it 28-7.
Wabash's final score of the half came on a 15-play drive capped by Grant Klembara's 1-yard run.
The Tigers forced Wabash to fumble on the first series of the second half, but the offense couldn't take advantage. Midway through the stanza DePauw started on its own 12 and Sansone's 44-yard run pushed the ball into Little Giants' territory.
Hunt converted a third-down pass to Flynn to the Wabash 26 and, on the next play, the Little Giants were whistled for a face mask and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which gave DePauw the ball at the Wabash 7. Hunt tossed a 6-yard scoring pass to J.D. Robinson on second down to close the gap to 35-14.
The Little Giants answered with Ian MacDougall's 43-yard field goal with 1:51 left in the third.
The final score of the game came with 2:39 left when Hunt connected with Robinson for a 38-yard touchdown which came just two plays after a 40-yard toss between the duo.
Wabash outgained DePauw, 466-230 and held a 27-11 advantage in first downs. The Little Giants entered the game as the nation's leader in turnover margin, but the Tigers actally won that category today.
Sansone finished with 55 rushing yards on 22 carries, while Hunt completed 12 of 21 for 172 yards and matched his collegiate high with three touchdown passes. Flynn caught five for 72 yards and Robinson hauled in four for 89.
The Little Giants totaled 170 yards on the ground with Anthony Stella finishing with 74 and Klembara 72. Putko connected on 21 of 29 for 296 yards with three scores and one interception. Hildrebrand was the top target with 10 catches for 125 yards.
Defensively, Adam Folta led DePauw with nine tackles, while Dennis Callicut finished with eight. Mitch Dwenger had the Tigers' lone sack and totaled two tackles for loss. DePauw finished with five tackles for 16 yards in losses.
Cody Buresh paced Wabash with seven tackles including four for loss and one sack. In all, the Little Giants had 10 tackles for losses totaling 30 yards.