THE GAME: Bulldogs enter The Game with Ivy League title on the line
The Yale football team will look to beat the Crimson and secure at least a share of the Ivy League championship.
Robbie Short, Senior Photographer
The Yale football team (7–2, 5–1 Ivy) is set to face off against Harvard (6–3, 4–2 Ivy) with everything to play for in the biggest game of their season.
With a win in the 138th playing of The Game, the Bulldogs would secure at least a share of the Ivy League championship in addition to a victory over their biggest rivals. Yale currently leads the all-time series 68–61–8, but were defeated last year by a heartbreaking last-second touchdown by the Crimson.
“Our team honors legacy, they honor tradition, so it definitely is more important and you feel the buzz around campus,” captain Nick Gargiulo ’23 said. “But the second part is it all falls back to us. We’re going to focus on what we need to do and how we need to do it. So that outside noise, while it’s encouraging, you know you’re excited to play in front of a big crowd and all the buzz around campus, it’s just about us. We’re just playing another game.”
All eyes in the sold-out Harvard Stadium will be on the rushing attacks for the two teams. However, for the Crimson, there will likely only be one rusher to watch, while the Bulldogs boast two lead backs and a dangerous running quarterback.
Harvard is led by one of the best running backs the Ivy League has seen in years with senior Aidan Borguet. Borguet is an explosive runner that leads the Ancient Eight in rushing yards with 1,120 yards across nine games.
The Crimson back will look to build on his already-legendary performances in The Game, namely his record-breaking 2019 showcase in which he set the Yale-Harvard record with 269 rushing yards. Maybe even more impressive was that the yardage only came on 11 carries, four of which were touchdowns.
If Borguet is able to break a long run this year, head coach Tony Reno trusts that his team has what it takes to respond because he has seen it from them before.
“In my experience as a coach, for your very best teams, there’s a moment of opportunity that the team either seizes or the team lets go by,” Reno said. “I really feel like this team, as others we’ve had that have been this type of team, they saw an opportunity to really chase something and they took advantage of it.”
For the Bulldogs, the approach to running the ball is a bit different. After Borguet, the Elis have the next three highest rushers in the Ivy League with quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 and running backs Tre Peterson ’24 and Joshua Pitsenberger ’26, each of whom has at least 585 yards .
With an offensive line that has been hailed by many as the best in the Ivy League, either the Bulldog runners often find plenty of space to take off, or Grooms typically has a clean pocket and time to deliver a strike to the talented receivers he has available.
For Harvard, the challenge with defending the Yale offense will be the balance of stopping the potent running attack without being exposed to deep play-action passes.
If Grooms fakes the handoff and pulls the ball to throw, he has multiple deep threat wide receivers. The duo of Mason Tipton ’24 and David Pantelis ’25 have proven their ability to get open against almost any defense in the league, with both averaging over 13 yards a catch.
For many of the Bulldogs, there is extra incentive, as The Game marks the final opportunity for the team’s seniors to don the Blue and White.
“I mean, they’re my brothers,” safety Kyle Ellis ’23 said. “For instance, I broke my ankle last year and that two-year period where you don’t play the game, you’re really looking forward to getting back on the field, getting back on the pitch with your brothers. I live with four other players and I come in and receive the same amount of love playing on the field. Through hard times, through good times, the thing I’m going to remember the most is the bonds I have with them.”
In the end, the task is simple for the Bulldogs: win and they will be champions of The Game
In a ten-game season, everything has come down to the final game, but regardless of the outcome, the feeling around the team is sure to be a positive one.
“I love this team, I really do,” Reno said. “This is one of those teams that, as a coach, when I’m older and grayer, I’ll think back and smile about this team because of how they handle themselves day in and day out.”
The Game kicks off at noon on Saturday at Harvard Stadium and will be televised on ESPNU.