As temperatures have plummeted in recent weeks, the Elis have heated up on the field. Men’s soccer sewed up the Ivy League title and are off to the NCAA tournament. Volleyball followed suit with a daring comeback win over Princeton to secure Yale’s third consecutive Ancient Eight title. And finally, football eviscerated the Tigers 51–14 to remount the top of the conference standings on the back of quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 and his record-breaking six touchdowns.
All of these achievements make for one of the most successful fall campaigns in recent memory for Yale Athletics. How fitting then that the season ends with the highly anticipated Yale-Harvard game at the Yale Bowl this Saturday. In contrast to last year, this fall, the Game should serve as a capstone to a triumphant semester of athletics.
In 2018, the energy of the weekend was off. The much-vaunted change of venue from Harvard Stadium to Fenway Park, rather than exciting students, served to stifle the atmosphere. Even after students stood in the cold for hours in long lines that stretched from Ray Tompkins House around the block and onto Lake Place to get tickets, vast swaths of the student section remained empty on game day.
Team 146 also entered that fixture hampered both physically and emotionally. The Bulldogs continued to miss Rawlings due to injury despite the rise of rookie phenom Griffin O’Connor ’22. The Elis had also been playing without injured running back and Phil Steele FCS Offensive Freshman of the Year Zane Dudek ’21. Furthermore, the defense was smarting after Princeton trampled over Yale 59–43 one week prior. Off the field, just days before the Game, the News reported that defensive bedrock and team captain Kyle Mullen had left the University in August amid an ongoing sexual assault investigation. The team was not in optimal shape to perform, and without a good student fan turnout, the 45–27 defeat to the Crimson was not truly surprising.
Circumstances this year could not be more different. Team 147 enters the game tied with the Big Green for first in the Ivy League, and since losing to Dartmouth in mid-October, the Bulldogs have exploded. Rawlings, now healthy and back at the helm of the offense, has thrown over 300 yards in each of his last four games along with 15 throwing and four rushing touchdowns over that stretch. The receiving tandem of captain JP Shohfi ’20 and Reed Klubnik ’20 are first and second in the league in receiving yards as well as touchdowns. Having returned to the fold, Dudek is fifth in the league in rushing yards. The team has put up over 40 points for four consecutive weeks.
In short, almost everything that went wrong last year has been put right this year. The offense is humming with senior leadership key to that success, and the team has demonstrated a remarkable ability to bounce back after a humbling defeat to Dartmouth. With the Big Green losing to Cornell this past weekend, the Elis also now have the unexpected opportunity of being able to clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title against Harvard on their own field.
Behind ample fan support and riding a wave of momentum, Team 147 is well placed not only to deliver a victory against the Crimson but also to punctuate what has been a remarkable fall for Yale Athletics.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org