Zi Lin

Sophomore Nolan Grooms ’24 entered Team 148’s season solidly placed as the back-up quarterback. Junior Griffin O’Connor ’23, meanwhile, entered the year as starting quarterback, with high expectations after setting a Yale record for single-game passing yards en route to his Rookie of the Year award in 2018. O’Connor had been sitting behind Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Kurt Rawlings ’20 and was ready for his first full season at the helm.

To begin the year, head coach Tony Reno used his creativity to keep Grooms involved. The sophomore was sprinkled into the offensive gameplan, similar to how the Saints used Taysom Hill while he played with Drew Brees. Grooms flashed as a runner to start the year and took advantage of his first extended action as a passer. Against Lehigh in early October, Grooms threw for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Two weeks later, O’Connor had arguably the toughest start of his career against UConn, throwing for only 59 yards on 23 attempts and three interceptions. Grooms replaced O’Connor at halftime, spurring a second half comeback and pushing the game to the final play.

In the week that followed, head coach Tony Reno said, “Nolan really distanced himself [from O’Connor] this week in practice and in the second half of the game against UConn … Griffin is an extraordinary player, and he’s a huge part of this team. We just felt that Nolan gave us a better chance to do what we needed to do offensively.”

Making the first start of his collegiate career against Penn the following weekend, Grooms put together a dazzling display of offense to lead his team to a 42–28 victory. When the final whistle blew, Grooms had thrown for 283 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception, adding a team high 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. For his performance, Grooms was awarded the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week accolade.

“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.”

In his following start against Columbia on a rain-filled afternoon, Grooms helped lead the way for Team 148 in what was its most complete game of the season — putting 37 on the board against a stingy Columbia defense that had only allowed 16 points per game entering the contest.

“Coming into the game, we knew they were going to give us one on one, especially with the rain,” Grooms said. “We knew if we won a couple of one on ones, we’d win the game.” 

In a must-win game against Brown the following weekend, a cold Saturday afternoon in Providence stood no chance of cooling off any of the fire that had been building under Grooms throughout the season’s second half. The South Carolina native passed for a career-high 330 yards to go along with three touchdowns and 31 rushing yards en route to a 63-point shellacking of the Bears. Grooms improved to 3–0 as a starter and took home his second ​​Ivy League Player of the Week accolade of the year for his performance. 

“Obviously game reps are very important for a quarterback,” Grooms told the News after the game. “But I feel like here we do a great job sort of simulating the game situation in practice … it’s easy to play quarterback when you’ve got guys like Melvin Rouse … [and] Darrion Carrington.”

Following last week’s loss against Princeton, Grooms is 3–1 as a starter in his collegiate career.

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.