It has been almost 139 years since Yale and Princeton first faced off on the gridiron. Both the game and the two universities have changed, but the two colleges will meet again tomorrow in the oldest rivalry in the Ivy League.
The Elis (2–6, 1–4 Ivy) will host Princeton (4–4, 3–2 Ivy) on Saturday for the 135th meeting between the two rivals. With such innovations as helmets, oval-shaped balls and the line of scrimmage, tomorrow’s game will look little like the Tigers’ 3–0 victory on Nov. 15, 1873.
Another important rule change since that time is the introduction of the forward pass after the 1905 season. But with the injuries to Yale’s quarterbacks, it remains to be seen how often the Blue will take to the air. Head coach Tony Reno said that he was unsure whether he would have a healthy quarterback this week. He added that although quarterback Eric Williams ’16 was cleared to play last week with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, the freshman signal caller is far from full strength.
“[Eric]’s banged up,” Reno said. “[Last week] was just one of those things where he wasn’t going to do any more damage so the medical staff cleared him.”
Quarterback Derek Russell ’13 was also cleared to play last week with a sprained throwing arm, but dealt with pain during warm-ups, according to Reno.
The Elis will be facing Princeton tomorrow — a team that has the luxury of not one, but two quarterbacks at its disposal. The sophomore tandem of Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly have combined for 1,821 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Michelsen has thrown 82 percent of the Tigers’ pass attempts this season while Epperly adds a running dimension to the Princeton offense. Epperly has dashed for 226 yards and four scores this season. Reno stated that both Tiger quarterbacks can manage the offense.
“Princeton’s a hard team to prepare for because they do so many different things on offense,” Reno said. “They have two good quarterbacks. Both can run the offense and not much changes.”
To compete with Princeton’s quarterback duo, the Elis will have to continue their success running the football. The Elis have rushed for more than 200 yards for three straight weeks and currently average 195.2 yards per game on the season.
Gaining 200 yards on the ground will be tougher this week, as the Elis face a Tiger defense that is third in the Ancient Eight against the run. Princeton’s run defense is led by defensive lineman Mike Catapano, who currently has 11.5 tackles for loss this year. Center John Oppenheimer ’13 stated that Yale’s offensive line is looking forward to the challenge.
“As an offense that prides itself on running the ball no matter who we’re against, we’re really looking forward to this week,” Oppenheimer said. “We just need to go in with the mindset that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, if we give everything we’ve got, we can run the ball on anybody.”
For Oppenheimer and 22 other seniors, tomorrow afternoon will be their final time playing at the Yale Bowl. The Class of 2013 is currently 8–11 at home over their career.
Defensive back Collin Bibb ’13 said that he is trying not to concentrate on his final game at Yale.
“It’s kind of weird of weird to think about,” Bibb said. “You try not to. The Yale Bowl is obviously a special place and I’m sure it’ll be a little bit emotional. Just trying to end it the right way.”
Kickoff is at noon.