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The Game 2014 is more than a battle for Ivy League supremacy — it is an opportunity for Yale to exorcise the ghosts of seven years futility on the gridiron. Here is a look back at what has gone wrong for more than half a decade.
Coming off their first conference title since 1999, Yale (9–1, 6–1 Ivy) looked to repeat their success over Harvard (8–2, 7–0 Ivy) on Nov. 17 at home, seeking their first perfect season since 1960. The Bulldogs never held a lead, however, as they were blown out 37–6.
Yale quarterback Matt Polhemus ’08 was under pressure all game, completing just two of 18 passes and getting sacked twice. Gio Christodoulou ’10 put the Bulldogs on the board in the fourth quarter with an 87-yard punt return, but the missed extra point summed up the Bulldogs’ shambolic attempt at title defense.
Yale was shut down in the 125th edition of The Game, losing 10–0 in Cambridge on Nov. 22.
With temperatures in the 20’s and wind gusts of 35 mph, Harvard largely abandoned its passing attack as it rushed for 261 yards. Running back Gino Gordon’s touchdown in the first quarter was enough to ensure that Harvard retained their position atop the Ivy League.
First year head coach Tom Williams oversaw Yale’s first losing season since 2005 as the Bulldogs lost 14–10 to Harvard at the Yale Bowl on Nov. 21.
A consistent running game combined with lockdown fourth-down defense to propel the Elis to a 10–0 lead going into the fourth quarter. But with 2:25 left and a 10–7 lead, Williams called a fake punt from the team’s 26 on fourth-and-22 — a controversial decision considering Yale punter Tom Mante ’10 was leading the Ivy League and averaged 51 yards per kick on the day. Yale failed to convert, and Harvard quarterback Collie Winters capitalized three plays later, punching in the decisive touchdown score.
Williams later shouldered all the blame for the loss as Yale’s futile streak stretched to three years.
On Nov. 20 at Harvard Stadium, the Bulldogs outdid the Crimson in first downs, yardage, time of possession and turnovers — yet still found themselves on the wrong side of a 28–21 game.
The Crimson capitalized on some sloppy special teams play, and even with running back Alex Thomas ’12 narrowing the gap to a single touchdown with minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs fell short again.
“We left it all out there,” said Yale captain Tom McCarthy ’11, who played his final game without ever beating Harvard. “There are definitely no regrets from the players and coaching staff.”
The 128th edition of the Game at the Yale Bowl on Nov. 27 was overshadowed by a fatal tailgating accident two hours before Harvard beat Yale 45–7.
A driver of a U-Haul truck suddenly accelerated through the tailgate area, fatally striking a 30-year-old Massachusetts woman and injuring two others.
Harvard quarterback Collie Winters passed for 355 yards while the Bulldog offense never showed up. It was the second-worst loss for the Elis in the history of The Game.
“Ending my career this way — it is definitely a low point for me in my 12 years of playing football,” said captain Jordan Haynes ’12.
The 129th edition of The Game lacked its usual relevance as neither team was in the hunt for the Ivy title. What it lacked in luster it made up for in excitement, however, as 33-point underdog Yale hung on gamely at Harvard Stadium on Nov. 17 before slipping late to a 34–24 loss.
The injury-plagued Bulldogs took a 24–20 lead in the fourth quarter as emergency quarterback Henry Furman ’14 — listed on the roster as a wide receiver, and the seventh quarterback used by the Elis during the season — tossed three second-half touchdowns. A late 63-yard touchdown rush by Crimson running back Treavor Scales, however, ensured that Harvard clinched its sixth straight win over the Bulldogs for the first time since the rivalry started.
Head coach Tony Reno marked it up as a moral victory for the Bulldogs.
“These guys have battled through more things this season than any football team,” he said. “I’m not happy with the result, but these guys came out and showed the world what Yale football is all about.”
A crowd of over 50,000 could not will the Bulldogs to victory at the Yale Bowl on Nov. 23. The Game was never really a game, as the Bulldogs fell behind 31-0 before scoring for the first time late in the third quarter.
Harvard kicker David Mothander made history in the fourth quarter, knocking down a 48-yard field goal that was the longest in the 130 meetings of the two teams.
Yale enters The Game 2014 with a 65–57–8 lead in the series that has been played since 1875, but 12 losses in its last 13 matchups with the Crimson.