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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monon Bell not just another week to Coach Walker

Friday, November 9, 2007

You hear coaches say it over and over again as they approach a big game -- "It's just another week."

With his second Monon Bell game as a head coach upon him, DePauw coach Matt Walker knows better.

Matt Walker
"I'm probably different than most people. I'm a realist in that, it is different," Walker said. "It would be real easy to sit here and say, 'It's just like any other week,' but I know it's not. I've been a part of it as a fan, a player, an assistant and now a head coach, so I know their body doesn't feel the same; the campus doesn't feel the same. You're more emotional, and I know that."

The '99 graduate and former Tiger quarterback may only be in his second season year as coach, but he has been at every Bell game since the late '80s, so he has seen it from all sides. Instead of trying to ignore the hype, he tries to get his players to use the energy correctly.

"It's always a unique week because of the energy and the buzz on campus, and I think the important thing is that you use the differences in this week compared to the other weeks," Walker said. "There's a lot more going on around the kids on campus. Things that don't normally happen the other nine weeks, happen this week."

He continued, "I think the important thing that we tell the guys is, 'Use it the right way. Use all the extra energy and extra emotion and intensity and buzz. Use it to prepare yourself harder. Don't get caught up in it but use it the right way to prepare better.'"

DePauw and Wabash will face off for their travelling trophy for the 76th time Saturday and for the 114th time overall. The game begins at 1 p.m. at Blackstock Stadium.
The Tigers (7-2) come into the 114th matchup having lost two in a row to Wabash (9-0). Only the seniors have experienced a Monon Bell victory. Walker, on the other hand, experienced three as a player. Walker does not overemphasize the success he had as a player, though.

"It's not a game where you need to create some magical reason to motivate your guys," the coach said. "Whether they've won five in a row or lost five in a row -- anytime the Monon Bell game is played, the kids are going to be ready to play it.

"One of the great things about this game is you spend no time or energy having to motivate your guys. Each guy is jacked up, ready to go," he continued.

The last game is special, though, a thought Walker has tried to convey to his players.

"I've had conversations with our seniors about what it means to win that last one, what it means to leave your legacy as a senior group that won the game," Walker said. "That becomes an important part of this Monon Bell legacy on both sides. It's pretty special to win it as a senior. There's something about it."

In Walker's senior year, the two teams came in with a similar situation to this year. Wabash was undefeated coming in and DePauw was 6-3. The Tigers came away with a surprising 42-7 win.

Walker is aware of the similarities, but only because other people have brought it up to him. He is more caught up in this year's game.

"It is kind of eerily similar that they're undefeated and we have a similar record," Walker said.

Although the Little Giants are undefeated and playoff-bound, Walker and the Tigers are not undefeated.

"We feel like we have a pretty good squad," he said. "Obviously, they're good. You have to give them a ton of respect for what they've accomplished on their season.

"This is going to be a great game," he said. "Not only do you have the rivalry, the history and the competitiveness between the two schools, you have two of the best teams in the state of Indiana in Division III. It's probably one of the better games you'll find all year in Division III football."

When it comes down to the strategy of the game, the coach sees no secrets. DePauw comes with a balanced offense. Wabash looks to pass first. There are no gimmicks, just football.

The key for DePauw will be maintaining its balance while preventing it on the Wabash side.

"It's no secret what we're trying to do," Walker said. "We're trying to establish a balanced attack and get our run game going to set up our throwing game. If we get both cooking, we feel like we have a great game."

That will mean starting the offense with senior running back Jeremiah Marks, who is averaging 128 yards per game. After that, the Tigers will look to the passing of sophomore quarterback Spud Dick and his corps of receivers.

"On the flip side, defensively we want to do the opposite to them," the coach said. "We make sure we take something away and then put some pressure on the quarterback. We need to play as hard as we can and try to shut them down."

The Little Giant offense is anchored by quarterback Matt Hudson, who ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency. The Tiger pass rush and secondary will have their hands full trying to stop the Wabash attack. DePauw is ranked 27th in the nation with 29 sacks and 10th in interceptions (18).

DePauw hosts Wabash in the 114th Monon Bell Classic at 1 p.m. Saturday at Blackstock Stadium.

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