A clash of gentlemen
Monday, August 11, 2014 10:00 PM
Like the duels of old, this September two proud programs with rich traditions will meet for bragging rights and to defend the honor of their school. The first of two football games between Wabash College and Hampden-Sydney College - labeled The Gentlemen's Classic - will take place Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. at Hollett Little Giant Stadium.
Wabash and Hampden-Sydney (Virginia) are both nationally recognized liberal arts colleges and are two of the remaining four all-male schools in the country, along with St. Johns in Minnesota and Morehouse in Georgia.
Both schools are mission driven and develop young men as responsible leaders. Wabash, founded in 1832, "educates men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely." Hampden-Sydney, founded in 1775, "forms good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning."
The game has drawn the attention of the NCAA. President Mark Emmert will be in attendance and will assist with the coin flip prior to the kickoff.
Despite the success for the Little Giants and Tigers throughout the years, this will be the first meeting between the two schools on the football field. And what a matchup it will be.
Wabash narrowly missed a trip to the playoffs last year after posting a 9-1 record, and the Little Giants are ranked No. 16 in the pre-season poll. Hampden-Sydney, ranked 21st, returns a powerful offense that pushed the Tigers to a 9-3 mark a year ago, including a win in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
Wabash begins the year as the fifth-winningest program in Division III history with an overall record of 642-380-59 in 127 seasons. Wabash returns 14 starters from the 2013 squad, including nine from the top defensive unit in DIII football. Hampden-Sydney boasts an all-time record of 531-443-38 over 119 seasons.
All-American outside linebacker Cody Buresh is one of four All-NCAC performers back from last season, joined by AJ Akinribade, Tyler McCullen, and Denzel Wilkins. Wabash led Division III in total defense (220.7 yards per game), ranked second in rushing defense (63.1 ypg) and tackles for losses (11.6 per game), third in team sacks (3.7 spg) and fourth in scoring defense (11.3 ppg). The Little Giants led all NCAA football programs in all divisions in turnover margin with a mark of plus-24.
The Little Giants have five starters back on offense in addition to the return of two injured running backs from a team that averaged almost 47 points per game in 2013. Michael Putko threw for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season as the starting quarterback for Wabash. Senior Tyler Holmes and junior Mason Zurek suffered knee injuries that ended their seasons in 2013 - both men were averaging over 100 years per game when injuries ended their seasons and they will be back this year.
Quarterback Nash Nance threw for 3,504 yards and 27 touchdowns last year to earn All-America honors. Wide receiver Holton Walker, also an All-American, caught 111 of those passes and scored 16 touchdowns. Three starting receivers return after helping the Tigers average 34 points and 445 yards per game.
Eight starters are back for the Hampden-Sydney defense. The Tigers - led by linebacker Josh Doggett and safeties John Moore and Shreve Rohle - held opposing teams to an average of 288 yards and 19 points a game. Old Dominion Athletic Conference coaches recently named the Tigers the top pick to win the league crown.
Tickets for The Gentlemen's Classic will be sold at the entry gates to Hollett Little Giant Stadium on game day. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students with a college ID and children. Wabash students may enter at no charge by showing their student ID. The game will also be streamed on Wabash's website at www.wabash.edu/live.
Wabash will travel to Hampden-Sydney to conclude the series in 2015. That game will take place Sept. 5, 2014.