With a share of the Ivy League title on the line, the Bulldogs got off to a strong start buoyed by the play of the defense and the legs of running back Tyler Varga ’15, finishing the half leading 7–3.
Yale received the ball to start the game, but a miscommunication between the receivers forced Yale to start the drive at the eight-yard line. The Bulldogs picked up a first down following a Varga rush and a completion from quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 to wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15. However, the Bulldogs were unable to continue its march downfield after failing to convert a third and long.
On Harvard’s first drive, the Cantabs too were unable to pick up points, turning the ball over on downs as the Eli defense forced a fumble. The Bulldogs, on their next possession, struggled to move the chains, and a low snap led to a blocked punt. The Crimson started its offense at the Yale seven-yard line, but the Eli defense stood strong, forcing a field goal attempt. A successful field goal put Harvard on the board first, with a 3–0 lead.
The Bulldogs’ offense stepped up during the next drive, as Varga carried the team on its back, rushing for six of the 13 plays of the drive. Breaking numerous tackles, Varga marched his way into the end zone, putting Yale up for the first time since the 2012 game, also at Harvard Stadium.
With the wind affecting the offenses, both quarterbacks struggled to complete passes, and often relied on the run. Yale had other opportunities in the game, including a strong drive deep into Harvard territory, but the Bulldogs were derailed by penalties. Harvard also had its chances following a 58-yard run to the Yale 11-yard line, but a fumble by Harvard running back Paul Stanton and recovery by linebacker Darius Manora ’17 led to a subsequent recovery by Yale.
Yale then moved the chains twice, eventually being forced to punt after three consecutive incomplete passes. Harvard ran out the clock to end the first half and will receive the ball to start the second.
Varga finished the first half with 76 yards and a score, while Roberts is 10–21 for 73 passing yards.