There’s more to Yale football than “The Game,” right?
While many Elis are caught up in the controversy and hype surrounding Harvard-Yale, true Yale football fans should pay attention to this weekend’s three other Ivy League games as these matchups influence just how close Yale will be to grasping its first outright Ivy League championship in 26 years.
In a game that is critical to the Ivy League standings — and just how significant the outcome of “The Game” will be in the battle for Ivy League football supremacy — the Harvard Crimson (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) will travel to Penn’s Franklin Field to face off with the Quakers (4-4, 2-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Coming off their third-straight overtime loss against an Ivy opponent, the Quakers will be looking to bounce back against a Crimson squad that will be trying to carry only its one league loss into “The Game,” with the hope of defeating the Elis and garnering at least a share of the Ivy title.
For the Quakers, the last three weeks have been forgettable. After starting off a promising 2-0 in Ivy League play, the Quakers have experienced one stunning loss after the next, with the most recent defeat coming at the hands of Princeton in a dramatic 31-30 double-overtime dogfight that was lost by a botched extra point. In their game against the Bulldogs on Oct. 21, the Quakers fell, 17-14, at the start of their painful Ivy losing streak.
The Crimson are coming off a 24-7 trouncing of the Columbia Lions and are looking to maintain their high level of play against Penn, before facing Yale in the Nov. 18 season finale. Harvard will rely on a strong defensive unit and senior running back Clifton Dawson, who looks to expand upon his Ivy record marks in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, all-purpose yardage and total points.
While the Bulldogs and Tigers battle, Columbia (3-5, 0-5) will play host to the Cornell Big Red (4-4, 2-3). The Lions, who are winless in the Ancient Eight, started off strong last weekend against the Crimson by moving the ball down the field to the Harvard 35-yard line on the opening possession. Unfortunately, the Lions’ drive stalled, much like their 2-0 season start did, and yielded to a Crimson onslaught.
Against the Elis, the Lions opened up the scoring with a field goal and looked strong in the first half, but were eventually outdone by an impressive 11-play, 97-yard Yale drive at the end of the first half and a devastating 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Bobby Abare ’09 in the third quarter.
The Big Red, coming off of a 28-25 victory over Dartmouth, have experienced a season checkered by unfortunate losses and upset victories. In the team’s most surprising victory of the year, a struggling Big Red squad shocked Princeton with a 14-7 victory Oct. 28 in Ithaca, N.Y. Early in the season, the Big Red suffered a 21-9 loss to the Bulldogs, who handed the Cornell team what would be its only home loss of the season. While the Big Red are out of the title race, they look to continue to impress with their solid rushing attack, an offensive weapon that racked up a season-high 261 yards against the Big Green last weekend.
In the weekend’s remaining Ivy League matchup, the Brown Bears (3-5, 2-3) will travel to Hanover, N.H. to play the Big Green (1-7, 1-4). The Bears hope to rebound from a 27-24 home loss to the Bulldogs on Nov. 4, in which Brown gave the visiting Elis all they could handle. The Bears outrushed the vaunted Yale rushing attack and got a 95-yard kickoff return from senior Brandon Markey, but five Brown turnovers tipped the balance of the game toward Yale. It appeared that Brown would continue its roll in the Ivies with a third-straight victory after a disappointing first half of the season, until Abare played hero again with three interceptions as Yale stole the victory.
As for the Bears’ upcoming opponent, the Big Green are in second-to-last place in the Ivies after a mightily disappointing season. On Oct. 7, the Bulldogs traveled to Memorial Field and handed the Big Green a 26-14 defeat. The Big Green made the game exciting in the third quarter when they cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 19-14 with two touchdowns in a span of 2:34. But Yale followed this comeback with an eight-minute, 15-second scoring drive capped off by Mike McLeod’s second rushing score of the day. After the Big Green almost frustrated Brown in its championship run last year, the Dartmouth squad hopes to pull out some late season victories, including one in its final home game of the season on Saturday.
For the first time in 99 years, Yale, Harvard and Princeton all boast 7-1 marks at this point in the season. While the Bulldogs sit alone atop the Ivy standings, the Elis can clinch sole possession of the Ivy League title with a Penn victory over Harvard and a Yale victory over Princeton this weekend.
Just remember this: all dedicated Yale fans should be fixated on PA announcements giving updates from Franklin Field, praying that Penn can help the Elis in their pursuit of any Ivy League championship. With a Harvard loss, “The Game” could be statistically meaningless, but please don’t let that dissuade you from taking part in the festivities.