After an impressive season, the Bulldogs are ready for their biggest matchup of the year: The Game. The stats from each of their previous games show their progress throughout the season, and the Elis have set their sights on victory.
Holy Cross (Sept. 21): Although the Bulldogs’ first win was not convincing, it showed that they were hungry. A combination of strong defense and versatile offense allowed the Bulldogs to start their season well, defeating Holy Cross 23–10 at the Yale Bowl. Senior quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 led the charge, putting up 232 yards through the air as well as 58 rushing yards. But it was the overall defensive performance that carried the team to victory. Though the game went back and forth, the Bulldogs dictated the second half, ensuring their win. Led by senior Spencer Matthaei ’20 and sophomore Kyle Ellis ’22, Yale’s defense allowed a total of 237 yards. It was a tough win for the Elis, but the season opener showed the team’s potential.
Cornell (Sept. 28): The Elis quickly opened the scoring against the Big Red in the first quarter with a 21-yard field goal by Sam Tuckerman ’20. Although the game was close for the first 45 minutes, tied at 10 a piece after the third quarter, Yale took over with only 15 minutes to go. After a dominant fourth quarter, as well as a touchdown in the final two minutes, Yale crushed the Big Red’s chances of victory. The final score was 27–16. The Bulldogs were shining on their home turf, and their first Ivy League game yielded positive results. Yet again, the Elis’ outstanding defensive effort contributed to their success. Rodney Thomas II ’21 helped turn the tides at the end of the third, intercepting a pass and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown, evening the score. At the end of the fourth quarter, with only 01:48 left on the clock, captain and wideout JP Shohfi ’20 returned the opposition’s onside kick for a 49-yard touchdown, delivering the final blow.
Fordham (Oct. 5): The Bulldogs put up 45 points in the first half, ensuring their victory long before the game ended. Rawlings was involved in four of the six touchdowns, running the ball himself on two occasions. Both wide receivers, Shohfi and Reed Klubnik ’20 combined for a total of 235 yards. Their offensive ability was simply too much for the Rams’ defense to handle. Similarly, Yale’s defensive talent limited the Rams to only 36 rushing yards, 120 less than their average at the time. After a strong first half hour, the Bulldogs led by 35. They were running away with the game, and there was no stopping them. Although Fordham scored twice in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late. The Bulldogs’ third consecutive victory marked the perfect start to their season.
Dartmouth (Oct. 12): The Elis suffered a tough loss against Dartmouth, starting the game by conceding 21 unanswered points in the first quarter. The final score was 42–10 in favor of the Big Green. Dartmouth outperformed the Bulldogs in the first and third quarters, giving it leeway for the rest of the game. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were down by 39 points and virtually no chance of a comeback. Dartmouth’s defense was impenetrable –– the Big Green only allowed the Bulldogs within 20 yards of its end zone three times. The game was Yale’s first loss of the season, and would test the players’ mental toughness. Head coach Tony Reno spoke about how important it would be to respond well in their next game, bouncing back from a tough defeat and continuing their progress. The next game would be a defining one for the team.
Richmond (Oct. 19): The Bulldogs squeezed out a narrow and exciting victory against Richmond, scoring twice in the final two minutes of the game to take the lead. The Spiders had a strong start and maintained their lead for the majority of the game. But the Bulldogs got better as the game went on and Richmond would ultimately rue its missed opportunities. With less than 90 seconds to go, the team was down by two touchdowns. Shohfi not only scored the first of these two late touchdowns, but also recovered the onside kick that gave the Bulldogs their shot at victory. Rawlings drew up another successful play and, with nine seconds left on the clock, Tuckerman hit the winning field goal, unfazed by the pressure. The team’s win was the perfect response after the loss to Dartmouth the week before, and they drove back to New Haven in high spirits.
Penn (Oct. 26): The Bulldogs and the Quakers traded touchdowns all afternoon, but a late streak gave the Bulldogs an edge over their opponents. Rawlings was outstanding that Saturday, leading the team to victory as he became Yale’s No. 1 all-time quarterback. He has set the record for both career touchdowns and total offensive yards in the school’s history. The Bulldogs’ offensive line was clearly on point against Penn. Rawlings, as well as Shohfi and Klubnik, received high praise for their performances. The two receivers combined for 20 catches and an impressive 349 out of the total 551 yards. The final score was 46–4 and the Bulldogs’ second victory in the Ivy League, improving their overall record to 5–1.
Columbia (Nov. 2): Rawlings paved the way to victory against the Lions with another career-high 390 passing yards. The Bulldogs established a dominant lead by the end of the first half and were in cruise control for the rest of the game. The strong defensive line and clinical offense overpowered the Lions. Multiple defensive linemen sacked the opposition’s quarterback, as Matthaei as well as Reid Nickerson ’22 had six tackles each. They held Columbia’s team to a mere 193 yards. Meanwhile, Shohfi nearly matched the Lions’ offense himself. The captain had nine catches and racked up 189 yards over the course of the game, the sixth most in Yale history. The final score was 45–10, and the Bulldogs were victorious at home yet again.
Brown (Nov. 9): Even at home, the Bears were no match for the Bulldogs, who kept their winning streak alive with another dominant victory. Although Brown’s team held on for the first half, Yale’s offense took over in the second, outscoring the Bears 35–14 in the final half hour. Shohfi hit seven touchdowns for the season. He had four touchdowns on the day, setting a Yale record for the most touchdowns in a game. Zane Dudek ’21 rushed for over 200 yards and totaled nearly 300 that afternoon, breaking the 2,000 mark in his career as a Bulldog. The pair combined for over half of Yale’s yards. On defense, the Elis not only forced three fumbles, but also pushed Brown’s offense back with 10 tackles for loss. The final score was 59–35. It was a strong performance from the team, which was getting better and better with every game.
Princeton (Nov. 16): The matchup between Princeton and Yale was crucial for both teams’ seasons. The Bulldogs and Tigers arrived on Saturday with identical records. Meanwhile, far away in upstate New York, Dartmouth was losing to Cornell to leave the race for the Ivy crown wide open. In spite of the pressure, the Elis stayed composed. They established a significant 23-point lead before the end of the first half, and did not falter in the second. Rawlings threw six touchdowns over the course of the afternoon, hitting 24 for the season. Shohfi and Klubnik combined for almost 250 yards, a seemingly average day for the pair of in-form seniors. The defensive line was solid, limiting the Tigers to 277 yards and only 14 points. Their efforts contributed to the 37-point victory, matching Yale’s largest win since 1931. The Bulldogs’ dominance tied them in first place with the Big Green, and both teams are 5–1 going into their final games of the season.
Harvard (Nov. 23): The Bulldogs are ready to take down Harvard this weekend at the Yale Bowl in their final game of the season. While the former is fresh off a five-game win streak, the latter has lost its last four. Although the odds are in the Elis’ favor, anything can happen when these two teams meet. Harvard was victorious last season, and the Bulldogs are eager for redemption. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23.