Jessai Flores, Illustrations Editor

Never watched a Yale football game before? Never watched a football game in the first place? Not even sure what football is? 

Don’t fret. This article will prepare you with everything you need to know ahead of the 138th annual game between Yale and Harvard. 

What is “The Game”?

“The Game” refers to the annual college football match between the Yale Bulldogs — also known as the Blue and White — and the Harvard Crimson. The teams first met in 1875, and have met 137 times since then. 

In the all-time series, Yale leads 68–61–8, but Harvard has been gaining ground in recent years. From 2007 to 2015, the Crimson won nine consecutive times. In last year’s game, Harvard won 34–31 after a fourth quarter comeback. The annual matchup is always played as both teams’ last game of the season and is considered to be one of the biggest matchups in American college football. 

How has Yale’s season gone so far?

Yale started off the season with an ugly 38–14 loss against Holy Cross, one of three non-conference games on their schedule. Non-conference games are not against Ivy League schools — these games are good practice but ultimately do not matter in determining the Ivy League standings. 

The Elis have since had a strong season. The Bulldogs have gone on to beat every other team on their schedule except for their loss to Penn in a close 20–13 game. After losing to Penn, the Elis bounced back against Columbia with a decisive 41–16 victory and trounced Brown with a winning score of 69–17, with their most points scored in a game since 1929. 

Last week, Yale secured a crucial comeback victory against Princeton, who came into the game with a perfect Ivy League record before being beaten by the Bulldogs 24–20. 

Winning against Yale would have granted Princeton the Ivy League title, but the Blue and White refused to hand them a victory. The win brought Yale to a 5–1 record in the Ivy League and kept their title hopes alive ahead of the final game of the season. 

What is at stake in this game?

Quite a lot. If Yale beats Harvard, which has a 4–2 conference record, the Bulldogs will automatically secure at least a share of the league championship. In the Ivy League, there are no playoffs or a final game to determine the winner. The championship is won by whoever finishes the season in first place, and, in the case of a tie, it can be shared by multiple teams. 

Whether or not Yale shares the championship, in this case, is determined by the result of another important game happening this weekend. Penn (4–2 Ivy) will face off against Princeton (5–1 Ivy). If Yale wins against Harvard and Princeton beats Penn, then Yale and Princeton would both finish the season with a 6–1 record and share the Ivy League title. However, if Yale wins and Penn beats Princeton, then Yale would finish the season with more wins than any other team, making the Bulldogs the sole Ivy League champions. 

Even if the Bulldogs were to lose against Harvard, it would still be possible for them to finish as a co-champion if Penn were to win against Princeton. In that case, all four teams would finish the season with a conference record of 5–2, meaning the season would end in a four-way tie for first place. 

If Harvard beats Yale and Princeton wins their game, then Princeton would win the title, and Yale would tie with Harvard for second place in the league. 

What should you be watching out for? 

The Bulldogs are a very “run heavy” team, meaning they move down the field by running the ball on the ground rather than throwing it through the air. Yale averages a whopping 234 rushing yards per game, the most in the Ivy League in that statistic by more than 70 yards. Yale is also the only team in the league that averages more rushing yards per game than passing yards. 

The Elis are led on offense by quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24. Typically, the quarterback’s primary role is to throw the ball downfield to the receivers, but Grooms combines playing styles of a typical quarterback and a typical running back, averaging more than 75 rush yards per game. 

Grooms is second in all of the Ivy League in total rushing yards with 682, an unusual statistic considering his primary job is to throw the ball. 

Following Grooms in Ivy-wide total rushing yards are teammates, Tre Peterson ’24 and Joshua Pitsenberger ’26, with 650 and 585 yards respectively. The two running backs are both heavily relied upon throughout games. Pitsenberger was named to the watch list of the 2022 Stats Perform Jerry Rice Award, which is given to a first year in FCS Division I collegiate football. 

With this running back duo and Grooms’ unique play, expect Yale to run the ball a lot on offense this Saturday. 

While Yale’s success this season has been primarily a result of their offensive prowess, they have also benefited from strong defensive play. 

Linebacker Hamilton Moore ’23 is second on the team in tackles with 57 this season. The linebacker’s role is to lead the defense and call out the plays. Hamilton also has two interceptions on the season, including a one-handed interception with 36 seconds left to seal the game against Dartmouth. 

Defensive lineman Clay Patterson ’24 leads the Bulldogs with six sacks — which is when a defensive player tackles the quarterback for a loss of yardage — on the season. Last year, he was listed as a watchlist player for the Buchanan National Defensive Player of the Year last year and finished the season as Third-Team All-American, along with being named All-Ivy First Team. 

Cornerback Wande Owens ’23 leads the team in tackles with 58 this season. His role on the field is to defend the wide receivers, and he will likely be lined up opposite of Harvard’s best receiver. 

Last year, the Bulldogs finished the season fifth in the Ivy League.

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.
Amelia Lower covers football, men's ice hockey and men's lacrosse. She is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College from Rye, New York, double-majoring in Spanish and the History of Science, Medicine and Public Health.