In a must-win game against the Brown Bears, the Yale football team kept its hopes of an Ivy League crown alive with its third consecutive win by scoring a grand total of 63 points. This single-game point total marks the most the team has ever scored under head coach Tony Reno and a team high since a 66–0 beatdown of Alfred University back in 1930. 

For the Elis (5–3, 4–1 Ivy), a cold Saturday afternoon in Providence stood no chance in cooling off any of the momentous fire the players had stepping onto the field at Brown Stadium. Over the last two weeks, the Blue and White had been averaging nearly 40 points and 352 total yards of offense. Coming into the contest, Brown (2–6, 1–4 Ivy) ranked last in the Ancient Eight in total defense, scoring defense, defending against the pass and stopping the run. 

Saturday’s matchup certainly did Brown no favors in boosting any of its defensive metrics. 

“Against Brown, you never feel comfortable,” Reno said. “You always want to put more [points] on the board. We finally got ourselves to a point late in the fourth quarter where we had a comfortable lead and then you felt a little better about the situation. I’m excited for the team and very proud of the kids and how they handled it.”

After the defense forced a three-and-out on Brown’s opening drive, the Yale offense wasted no time in making its collective presence felt. On just the second play of the drive, quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 hit wideout Melvin Rouse II ’22 on a swing pass who, with the help of textbook Eli blocking, was able to take it 61 yards to the house.

Three drives later, however, the Bears answered back with an 11-play drive, culminating in an other-worldy catch by Wes Rockett. The Brown wideout corralled a pass behind him at the 5-yard line and subsequently spun around and reached across the goal line while being tackled for a touchdown. The score leveled the game at seven apiece. 

Following a Bulldog punt, FCS All-American quarterback EJ Perry led a flawless 77-yard drive down the field on just seven plays, highlighted by a 48-yard reception to his running back Allen Smith that set up a first-and-goal. Two plays later, the Perry-Rockett connection was in effect again in the form of a five-yard strike at the left corner of the endzone, giving Brown a seven point edge. 

The lead would be short-lived, however, as Grooms led an even quicker six-play drive that finished with a 27-yard strike to first-year receiver David Pantelis ’25 in the left side of the end zone. After one quarter of play, the score was even at 14. 

Seven plays into Yale’s following drive, Grooms looked to run. After juking two defenders, the South Carolina native broke into the second level of the defense. From there, Brown defender Joseph Shell ripped the ball loose, allowing it to bounce dangerously in the middle of a crowd of Bear defenders. Miraculously, the bounce went directly to Pantelis at the 21-yard line, who picked it up in stride and darted into the end zone for the go-ahead score, which was also his second of the game.

As fast as the Blue and White had taken the lead, the Bears would equalize even sooner with the help of some footballing trickery. On the drive’s third play, the snap was taken by a running back who immediately lateralled the ball to backup quarterback Michale McGovern on a designed flea flicker. Meanwhile, EJ Perry, who set up as a wide receiver on the play, managed to create some space from his defender and was hit in stride by a quick strike from McGovern. With open field ahead of him, Perry ran down the left sideline for a 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It was the first Brown pass attempt by someone other than Perry this season and marked his second career reception. The move also evened the game at 21 apiece. 

Team 148 had yet another answer in them. Grooms led a faultless scoring drive — marching his offense 62 yards down the field without an incompletion — to give his team a 28–21 edge. With just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter, a 7-point Eli lead quickly turned into a 14-point lead after a 60-yard pick-six by defensive back Sean Guyton ’25. 

With the half winding down, the air and ground tandem of EJ Perry and Allen Smith took over, driving 51 yards down the field before a 10-yard run by Smith broke the goalline to cut Yale’s halftime lead to 35–28.

Coming out of the half, the Elis never looked back. Grooms started quickly, hitting Darrion Carrington ’22 who took the pass 65 yards to the endzone and extended the lead back to 14 points. Perry manufactured a quick response, culminating in a 21-yard touchdown to Rockett. After the two teams traded scoreless drives, and with a minute remaining in the third quarter, the Yale defense managed to break the lull in scoring when linebacker Noah Pope ’22 recovered a strip sack in the Brown end zone to give Yale a 49–35 edge. This marked the second touchdown of the day for the Eli defense.

The Bears were only able to muster a single field goal the rest of the way, while the Elis kept their foot on the gas, highlighted by two short touchdown runs from Spencer Alston ’23 to ultimately put the Bulldogs up 63–38 as the game came to a close.

Grooms improved to 3–0 as a starter with the win, passing for a career-high 330 yards and three touchdowns with 31 rushing yards to boot. Grooms took home his second ​​Ivy League Player of the Week accolade of the year for his performance. 

Pantelis finished with a game-high and career-high 205 all-purpose yards and added two scores — earning him Ivy League Rookie and Special Teams Player of the Week honors. 

“We’re basically in a playoff mode each week,” Reno said. “We’re just going to focus in on that opponent and go one and [zero] each week.”

The Bulldogs will travel to Princeton, New Jersey this Saturday to face the Tigers. Princeton is coming off its first loss of the season, a 31–7 meltdown against the Dartmouth Big Green. Dartmouth’s surprise win helped catapult the Bulldogs into a three-way tie for first place in the Ancient Eight. Yale now sits at 4–1 in the conference and has the same record as the aforementioned Big Green and Tigers. The Harvard Crimson, whom Yale will battle in the final game of the season, sits just one game behind. 

Team 148 controls its own conference destiny — winning out over the season’s final two games would guarantee at least a share of the Ivy League title for the Bulldogs. 

Yale and Princeton will have a first-place showdown next Saturday at 1 p.m.

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.
Nader Granmayeh '23 is a former staff writer who covered football and softball for the Yale Daily News.