On Jan. 12, 2012, Tony Reno stood up in front of a press conference hosted at the Yale Bowl and was introduced as the 34th head coach of Yale football. A former assistant at both Harvard and Yale, Reno promised he was the right man to do what his predecessor, Tom Williams, had not: win an Ivy League title and beat Harvard in The Game. Nearly five years later, Reno has amassed a 23–26 record, and though he has provided Yale football fans with some memorable moments, none of his wins have come against Harvard.
A combination of youth and inexperience doomed Reno’s first team, which finished 2–8 and in last place in the conference. That season, Reno started five different quarterbacks before settling on Henry Furman ’14, who started much of the following season. Team 139 also saw the emergence of two transfers who would play integral roles in subsequent seasons: running back Tyler Varga ’15, who arrived from Western Ontario University, and quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, a former Clemson player.
The 2013 campaign saw the team improve upon its previous season’s record by three games, including a win over then-No. 18 Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. While the season ended on a dour note — a 27-point drubbing at the hands of Harvard — both the offense and defense made strides throughout the 5–5 season.
Still, only the most devoted Yale fan could have predicted what would happen in the subsequent season, which saw the Bulldogs beat Football Bowl Subdivision team Army en route to a record-setting season. The 2014 campaign, which again improved upon the prior season by three games, featured the most productive offense in the Football Championship Subdivision. The 131st iteration of The Game, broadcast by ESPN’s College GameDay, was as close as it was heartbreaking. A last-minute Crimson touchdown dashed Yale’s championship hopes as well as the team’s dream of breaking what was already the longest winning streak in the series.
Despite Varga’s graduation, the 2015 Elis looked to be in good position to make a title run. However, man after man after man went down, and the bruised and bandaged Bulldogs stumbled to a 6–4 season that concluded with a 19-point loss to Harvard. Unfortunately for Reno, the 2016 season is following a similar patter as the 2015 and 2012 seasons. Injuries have plagued Team 144, which has started three different quarterbacks, and has relied on a rotating cast of skill players — many of whom are freshmen.
Reno has another chance to pick up the elusive win over Harvard in his 50th game as Yale’s head coach when he faces off against his former team on Saturday.