Courtesy of David Schamis

Entering the final two games of their season, the Bulldogs (6–2, 4–1 Ivy) hope to carry their momentum into their final home game of the year against the undefeated Princeton University (8–0, 5–0 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon. 

The mission is clear for the Bulldogs. If the team wins their final two games, they’ll be guaranteed at least a share of the Ivy League championship. Luckily for them, the Bulldogs believe that they’re playing their best football of the season as they enter their second to last game.

“You know, there’s a sort of mojo that you start feeling in these sorts of situations,” quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 said. “You can just feel it in the locker room. When we have team meetings you can feel it in team meetings. I think the cool thing is we’ve known our potential, and how good we can be. We’re not perfect yet but you see that it’s sort of coming to fruition. It shows that we can do it.”

The “mojo” that Grooms referenced is likely to come from the past two games for the Bulldogs, in which the Elis have outscored opponents by a combined total of 77 points. 

Since the team’s only Ivy League loss to Penn on Oct. 22, the energy around Team 149 has been different — something that head coach Tony Reno has taken note of within his team.

“I think we’re playing much more freely as a team,” Reno said. “We like to say, ‘hey we do a lot of work during the week so that on Saturday we can play really freely.’ I think we’re playing really freely right now. We’re playing fast so it gives us that best chance to have success on Saturday when we can do those things.”

The Bulldogs have showcased the ability to play well and succeed in many different kinds of games. Most importantly for the upcoming game against the Tigers, the Bulldogs have shown the ability to compete in a high-scoring shootout.

The game will feature the two highest-scoring offenses in the Ivy League, with the Bulldogs averaging 32.5 points per game and the Tigers just behind with 29.9 points per game. 

The Bulldogs coaches will need to decide what kind of game plan is most likely to deliver a Yale win on Saturday. The Elis started the season opting for a ball-possession based offense, leaning on a bend-don’t-break defense. However, in recent games, they have taken the reins off and run a fast-paced no-huddle offense relying on the defense’s ability to take the ball away. 

The Bulldogs are equipped with a stable of running backs and the legs of Grooms to eat up the yards and keep the clock moving. On the other side of the ball the defense has demonstrated the ability to slam the door shut in the red zone and force opponents to kick field goals rather than touchdowns.

On the other hand, the fans could be in for a show if Reno and his staff opt to let Grooms sling it and count on their wide receivers to make plays downfield. The defense would be responsible for making more of the momentum-shifting plays they’ve made all season, relying on its ball-hawking secondary and strong defensive front to turn over the Princeton offense.

Regardless of the game plan, the Bulldog players are confident that they have built something both on and off the field that no one will want to compete with. 

“It feels like there is something special going on, and we all feel it,” cornerback Wande Owens ’23 said. “After the Columbia game, we had a team barbecue on Saturday and it was just great energy. I think guys are just getting together. We love each other so much, and we play hard for each other.”

The Bulldogs and Tigers will kick off at noon on Saturday at the Yale Bowl and will also be streamed live on ESPN+. 

Spencer King is an Editor for the Sports desk. He has covered the Yale football and women's ice hockey teams. He has also previously covered the Yale men's lacrosse team and most things Bulldogs sports. Spencer is a junior in Davenport College and is majoring in Political Science.