The Bulldogs will host their second straight game at the Yale Bowl on Saturday when they face off against Columbia. The Lions are coming off an impressive 19–0 shutout against Dartmouth, who beat the Elis in overtime just a few weeks ago. 

Columbia (5–1, 2–1 Ivy) has only one loss on its ledger all year. In their Ivy opener, the Lions lost 24–7 in Princeton, New Jersey to the Tigers. Princeton entered the year as the Ivy League preseason favorite and is the only undefeated team left among the Ancient Eight. Columbia entered its last contest as 17-and-a-half-point underdogs to Dartmouth but rode a defensive shutout en route to victory. The Big Green loss put Yale (3–3, 2–1 Ivy) squarely back into the mix for the Ivy League crown. The Bulldogs’ only conference loss came against Dartmouth and with the Big Green dropping a game to Columbia, Yale will be guaranteed a share of the Ivy League title if they win their remaining four games, including the penultimate contest against Princeton.  

“Our opponent this week is the best team we’ve played on our schedule so far,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said. “Overall, really good in all three phases. They’re coming off a shutout of a very good team in our league on the road. There’s really not a lot of weaknesses in what they do, but we’ve got to just worry about ourselves and prepare well and get ourselves ready to be the best versions of Yale football in 2021.” 

Columbia’s offense has been carried by its running game. Six different Lions have recorded a rushing touchdown and senior Dante Miller leads the Ivy League in rushing yards with 608 in just six games. As a team, the Lions sit second in the conference with 185 rushing yards a game. They trail only Harvard, who average 185.3 yards. To accompany their prolific running game, sophomore quarterback Joe Green has done an excellent job of limiting turnovers, with the Lions signal caller having just one interception all year. Green won the conference’s Rookie of the Week award on Monday, for his performance against Dartmouth.

“Columbia has done a great job on offense all year,” defensive end Reid Nickerson ’23 said. “They have a really fast running back and their offensive line can get after it a little bit as they’ve shown in previous weeks. But, you know, we’ve emphasized, really, that it’s us versus us. If the defense goes out there and executes, then we’re going to be fine as we’ve shown throughout the year.”

Of the four Lions to have won an Ivy League weekly award, two of them are on the defensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker Cam Dillon and senior defensive back Ben Mathiasmeier have both been honored as defensive players of the week. Dillon is second in the conference with seven sacks this year, trailing only Yale defensive end Clay Patterson ’24. Mathiasmeier, meanwhile, is tied for the conference lead in interceptions with three. 

Yale’s offense will be led by quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24. Grooms made his first career collegiate start last Saturday and orchestrated a 14-point win over Penn.

“Oh, man,” Nickerson said when asked about Grooms. “He’s a problem. He’s a problem. He’s been causing problems ever since he got here. The [defensive line] likes to joke around because in practice, we’ll get right up next to a sack and then he’ll just outrun us 20 yards.”

Grooms was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Quakers, which included a team high 113 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. Grooms’ ability as a dual-threat quarterback, running and passing the ball, has been a key storyline in his young career

“I really pride myself on being a passer first,” Grooms said. “But then, once stuff breaks down, you gotta be able to move a little bit, so I got to be decisive … I got to keep working, gotta keep my eyes downfield as a passer, but as soon as I personally pass the line of scrimmage, it’s time to go.”Nader Granmayeh

Grooms and the Bulldogs will kick off against Columbia on Saturday at 12 p.m.

Nader Granmayeh '23 is a former staff writer who covered football and softball for the Yale Daily News.