Tomorrow, Yale’s football team is vying to break a four-year losing streak – for the first time since 1923.
The last time Yale won the Game was in 2006 after five consecutive losses. Prior to the 2000’s slump, Yale never lost more than four games in a row, and that only happened twice: between 1912 and 1915, and between 1919 and 1922.
Nearly all of the players on the team matriculated after the 2006 win, but defensive lineman Austin Pulsipher ’12 has had the taste of sweet victory against the Crimson.
Pulsipher was a freshman in 2006 and played on the winning football team that year. He then took two years off of school to participate in a Mormon mission in Taiwan before returning to campus and the Yale Bowl.
“The last few years it’s been a close game,” he said, adding that his sophomore and junior Harvard-Yale games have both come down to the fourth quarter. “Winning this weekend would be a memorable way of finishing senior year.”
The lead up to the 2006 Harvard-Yale game was particularly exciting, as Yale was fighting not only to beat its long-standing rival, but also for the Ivy League Title. The team had been undefeated in the league until the weekend prior to The Game, when the Princeton Tigers outplayed the Bulldogs at home.
“After that game, Princeton painted our bleachers their ugly orange,” assistant coach Duane Brooks recalled of the 2006 season. Brooks, who has coached the Bulldogs for 15 years, added that it is tough to play against Yale’s main rivals, Harvard and Princeton, on back-to-back weekends.
The Princeton defeat in 2006 did not foreshadow the outcome of the Harvard game, which Yale won 34-13. Then-captain Chandler Henley ’06 was in his fifth year with the team as he had red-shirted the 2005 season with a shoulder injury.
“We had lost four in a row, and it was tough for me to see my classmates graduate without a win under their belts,” he said. “It gave me more of a motivation to win because I had one more chance to do it.”
Punter Thomas Mante ’10, who started all four of his Harvard-Yale games from 2006-2009 and only won in 2006, said in an email to the News that as a freshman, he was not really aware of the team being on a losing streak to Harvard. He added that the team had been on a roll that year that losing against Harvard never even occurred to him as a possibility.
“On the one hand it was a great feeling to end the streak by beating them on their own field for the championship, but on the other hand, all 120 of us players expected that to happen,” he said. “We were just doing our jobs and taking care of business.”
The 2011 Bulldog squad shares more with the 2006 team than just the desire to break a losing streak.
The make-up of this year’s team is similar to that of 2006’s–the team is older, with mostly juniors and sophomores, Brooks explained.
In the 2007 season, Yale won the league title and had a record of 9-1 – undefeated for the whole season, except against the Crimson.
Brooks said the loss against Harvard was the only thing that stuck in people’s minds from that season.
“As you keep losing games, it doesn’t become a rivalry anymore,” Brooks said. “You need to go back and forth. Right now we’re in a rut, and it’s hard to get out of the rut,” he said of the team’s past decade. “We hope to get that monkey off our back this weekend.”