Courtesy of David Schamis

The Bulldogs (2–2, 1–1 Ivy) will face Sacred Heart (1–5, 1–3 NEC) at the Yale Bowl at noon this Saturday in their final non-conference game of the season. 

The Yale football team tallied their first conference victory last weekend against Dartmouth, adding a second win to their season record. The Elis will return home this week to the Yale Bowl to face Sacred Heart with aspirations to continue their strong play and add to their winning streak. 

“It’s great for us on both ends, playing a really good football team in-state,” head coach Tony Reno said. “It’s great for Connecticut, hopefully for the fans as well. They’re a really good team.”

This is the first time the Blue and White will face the Pioneers, despite the schools being less than 25 miles apart. 

The most recent Bulldog contest against a Connecticut university was on Oct. 16, 2021, when Yale fell 21–15 to the University of Connecticut. The Yale football team has not hosted a Connecticut university in the Bowl since facing the Huskies in 1998, a 65–21 loss for the Elis.

In their game against Dartmouth last Saturday, the Bulldogs secured a win in a back and forth contest. In the fourth quarter, quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 threw a 69-yard pass to wide receiver Ryan Lindley ’24 to raise the score to 31–24 with under six minutes remaining. 

“Winning games on the road is difficult, especially at Dartmouth,” Lindley said. “Once you win, the team’s having a good time… it was definitely a fun trip back.”

Yale’s victory over Dartmouth was Yale’s first win at Memorial Field in Hanover since 2010 and marked milestones for multiple players.

Game-changing interceptions were made by both linebacker Hamilton Moore ’24 and defensive back Sean Guyton ’25, with 3:35 and 2:14 remaining, respectively. Guyton’s interception was his second of the afternoon, the first being an interception off Big Green quarterback Nick Howard’s pass that he returned 70 yards for a touchdown. 

“It just felt really exciting to be back out there,” Guyton said. “I just basically saw the ball coming and went to attack it and go for it.”

Lindley posted a career-high 128 receiving yards, and wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24 caught a 4-yard touchdown pass that put him in the lead of Team 150 with five touchdown receptions this season. Guyton’s 70-yard interception was the 10th longest in school history. 

Several Bulldogs also made it back onto the field after being sidelined with injuries. Guyton returned to play last Saturday after missing the beginning of the season due to a pulled hamstring, and running back Joshua Pitsenberger ’26 also made his return to the field in style — converting a touchdown in the second quarter — after missing the past two games. 

“It’s really hard to keep really good players off the field,” Reno said. “We just try to find ways to get them on the field and the opportunities they need to be successful.”

Sacred Heart began their season with a series of three losses, 19–14 against Lafayette on Sept. 2, 27–10 against Georgetown on Sept. 9 and 17–10 against Wagner on Sept. 16. Following their only season 37–34 win against Saint Francis University on Sept. 23, the Pioneers fell two more times, 17–7 against Merrimack College on Sept. 30 and 23–13 against Long Island University on Oct. 7. 

In their most recent game, the Pioneers were only down by four points going into the second half but then lost their steam and fell by 10. Leading the offense, Sacred Heart quarterback Cade Pribula passed for 151 yards and had 15 carries, and running back Malik Grant had 15 carries for 44 yards. Grant now has a career rushing total of 3,061 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. 

Defensively, Pioneer linebacker DeAndre Byrd had eight tackles — one for loss — and a sack, and linebacker Ernest Howard had eight tackles — two for loss — and a sack. Defensive lineman Tyreke Brown also had five tackles and two forced fumbles. 

“Up front, on both sides of the ball, they’re physical,” Reno said. “Their offensive line and defensive line have really impressed me.”

In the NCAA FCS rankings, Sacred Heart ranks first in passing yards allowed, second in team passing efficiency defense, 14th in third down conversion percentage defense, 15th in fumbles recovered and 18th in kickoff returns. 

Sacred Heart wide receiver Jon Moccia ranks 19th in combined kick return yards with 324, and defensive lineman Bayo Gbowu and linebacker Ernest Howard are tied at third in the FCS in fumbles recovered with two each.

On Sept. 25, kicker Sam Renzi was named the NEC Special Teams Player of the Week after Sacred Heart’s victory over Saint Francis. Renzi went 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra point attempts, converting two 40-yard field goals and racking up 13 points throughout the contest.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us offensively,” Reno said. “They’re really tough against the run… They’ve got two receivers … two guys that are really dynamic, so it’ll be a heck of a journey.”

The Bulldogs, coming off two consecutive wins, are ready to face their last out of conference opponent before finishing their Ivy League schedule. 

In their last two games, the Yale offense has been explosive, tallying 796 yards of total offense and 71 points. The Elis lead the Ivy league with five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

“Our guys up front do a really good job of pass protection,” Reno said. “Nolan, the receivers, the tight ends do a great job of … making plays, getting themselves open.”

Tipton leads the Ivy League and is seventh in the nation with five receiving touchdowns, catching at least one touchdown in every game this season. Tipton has made a total of 20 catches for 315 yards.

Grooms is seventh in the nation in passing efficiency (170.0) and has completed 66.3 percent of his passes, leading the Ivy League with nine touchdown passes and one interception. Lindley has also made a  strong contribution to the passing game, making 22 catches for 245 yards. 

“Between quarterbacks and receivers, chemistry is a real thing,” Lindley said. “Being able to get those reps with Nolan [Grooms] last year versus this year in practice through spring ball … he and I really built that chemistry.”

The Elis are also 12th in the nation in turnover margin (1.0) and 14th in the nation in third down conversion percentage (.481).

The Bulldogs are excited to return to their home turf and defend it in their first matchup of all time against Sacred Heart. 

“We talk about effort all of the time,” Reno said. “It’s in practice … We try and train that ability to play fast, play through whistles, we replicate it in practice [and] it shows up on Saturday.”

Kickoff is slated for Saturday at noon at the Yale Bowl and will be streamed live on ESPN+.

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.