FOOTBALL: Yale takes on Columbia under the lights
Hoping to bounce back from their first conference loss of the year, the Elis face the Lions under the lights this Friday.
Robbie Short, Senior Photographer
The Yale football team (4–2, 2–1 Ivy) will meet Columbia University (3–3, 0–3 Ivy) at Robert K. Kraft Field at 6:30 p.m. this Friday for their fourth Ivy matchup of the season.
The game will take place under the lights and be televised on ESPNU, as the Bulldogs look to start a new winning streak on a national stage. Both the Elis and Lions are coming off losses to Penn and Dartmouth respectively and are searching for a win.
Both teams will have to combat the unique situation of a Friday night game, leaving one less day to prepare.
“It is pushed up one day earlier, so you’ve got to keep everything even more airtight,” safety Kyle Ellis ’23 said. “You’ve got to have greater attention on the details, not that you don’t have before, but you have one extra day to iron out the kinks in your gameplan, but with one less day you’ve got to be even more locked in and dialed in to doing your job every play. As we like to say on defense, doing your one eleven.”
Out of its last eight meetings with Columbia, Yale has triumphed in six. In their meeting last year, the Blue and White tallied a 37–30 win, coming back from a 23–14 deficit early in the third quarter.
Quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 had two touchdowns and completed 20-of-29 passes for 279 yards, and wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24 had four receptions for 112 yards in last season’s matchup. Cornerback Wande Owens ’23 led the defense with nine tackles.
This year, the key to the game will be how the Yale rushing attack, ranked first in the Ivy League, performs against the top-ranked Columbia rushing defense.
The Bulldogs have a three-headed rushing attack, with Grooms and running backs Tre Peterson ’24 and Joshua Pitsenberger ’26 all ranking in the top eight in rushing yards in the Ivy League.
“At the beginning of the season our goal was to be the best room in the Ivy League,” running back Elliott McElwain ’23 said. “It was really up to no individual, it was how can we as a room be great in the running game, as well as our offensive line and our tight ends who do a great job blocking. We’re pursuing that goal and getting better at it every day.”
Columbia began their season in dominant fashion with a 38–3 win against Marist College on Sept. 17 and a 42–6 win against Georgetown University a week later. Despite their early successes, the Lions have faltered in Ivy play, falling 24–6 to Princeton University, 34–14 to the University of Pennsylvania and 27–24 to Dartmouth College.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs managed to earn a hard-fought 24–21 victory when they played against Dartmouth on Oct 8. and were tied with Penn until the final minute of play last week. In that game, the Blue and White limited the Quakers to 67 rushing yards, yet their strong defensive play wasn’t enough to overcome a late Penn touchdown that broke Yale’s winning streak.
The Lions currently lead the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, in rushing defense. Senior linebacker Scott Valentas has a team-high 48 tackles, 37 of which were solo stops, and sophomore defensive lineman Justin Townsend leads the Ivy League with six sacks.
In a matchup of the leading rushing offense and defense in the Ivy League, something will have to give. The Bulldogs average 229 rushing yards a game, while the Lions only give up an average of 54.5 rushing yards a game.
However, the Bulldogs are confident they have the edge in the matchup thanks to an intensive offseason focused on creating the potent rushing attack on display now.
“At the end of last season we looked at it and said, ‘Hey, we think we can be better in our run game and how do we research and become better at it,’” said head coach Tony Reno. “So we spent the offseason really researching a lot of really good teams and how they run the football. From the NFL to college and back and forth, we spent a lot of time on it.”
The Bulldogs and Lions boast the two leading offenses in total yards in the Ivy League, with an average of 400.2 yards per game for Yale and 377 yards per game for Columbia.