Courtesy of David Schamis

The Bulldogs (5–3, 3–2 Ivy) will continue their season on the road against Princeton (4–4, 3–2 Ivy) at Powers Field in Princeton, New Jersey, at noon this Saturday. 

The Yale football team tallied a strong 36–17 win against Brown (4–4, 2–3 Ivy) last weekend, when Yale’s defense forced four turnovers and saw their special teams block a punt, helping to secure the victory. Following their strong performance last week, the Elis have won five of their past six games and are still in the running for the Ivy League Championship. 

“My team remains very driven and really focusing on being the best version of themselves every day and having the best day of the week each day,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Excited to see us move forward and play a great team this week at Princeton.”

The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 79–55–10 against Princeton, and this will be the 145th time they meet. Since 2003, the Elis have held a 12–7 advantage in contests against the Tigers. Their most recent meeting was on Nov. 12, 2022, where Yale saw a 24–20 win. 

Despite the Tigers going undefeated in Ivy competition in the 2022 season, the Bulldogs won by a four-point margin because of Tigers quarterback Black Stenstrom’s incomplete pass into the endzone with seconds left in the fourth quarter. 

“I think every year we play them down there, it’s a battle [and] every time we play here it’s a battle,” Reno said. “We’re just excited for the opportunity.”

Last season, the Elis protected their strong conference record in their play against Princeton at the Yale Bowl; they defeated every Ivy League challenger except the University of Pennsylvania. Pivotal plays made in the third quarter — such as a 14-yard touchdown by wide receiver Chase Nenad ’24, a 44-yard field goal by kicker/punter Jack Bosman ’24 and a 19-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 — brought Yale back from a 14–7 deficit and gave them a 10-point advantage. 

The Bulldogs had 297 yards of rushing offense, 152 of which were traveled by Grooms and 108 by running back Joshua Pitsenberger ’26. Yale’s defense limited Princeton’s attack to only 76 rushing yards, defensive back Brandon Benn ’24 made two interceptions and linebacker Joseph Vaughn ’24 led the team with nine tackles. 

“It was really the mindset change,” wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24 said. “We have to make the game go, we can’t wait for big opportunities to happen … if we want to win, we have to take the game over.”

Last year’s contest tied Yale and Princeton in the lead of the Ancient Eight, leaving the Ivy League Championship title up to both of their final games. Ultimately, the Bulldogs claimed a 19–14 victory over Harvard, and Princeton fell 20–19 to Penn, giving Yale the outright win. 

In its game against Brown last week, the Bulldogs saw success, tallying a 36–17 victory over the Bears in Providence. Yale led 410–334 in total yards of offense and 190–68 in rushing yards, while going 10-of-19 in third down conversions and limiting Brown to only 5-of-17.

Grooms was 15-of-27 on passes and tallied four touchdown passes, while Tipton had three touchdown receptions, which places him at second in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS.

“[In unsuccessful] games, a lot of times, we were waiting for a big play, waiting for something to just happen our way,” Tipton said. “It’s just not how it works in this league.” 

Wide receiver Joey Felton ’24, who was named to the Ivy League Honor Roll last Monday, ended the game with 129 yards on three returns, including his season-best 47-yard return, and Vaughn led the defense with eight tackles and four solo stops. Safety Osize Daniyan ’27 had six tackles and forced a fumble in the second that gave Bosman the opportunity to kick a 21-yard field goal.

Other key moments in the game were linebacker Jermaine Baker’s ’24 recovered fumble at the start of the contest, Joshua Pitsenberger’s ’26 4-yard run into the endzone and defensive back Phoenix Grant’s ’27 blocked punt in the third quarter, which led to one of Tipton’s three touchdowns. 

“Mason’s having a heck of a season, but he’s doing everything we need to do to win,” Reno said. “He’s got an extraordinary year for us this year, as a leader and a player.”

With just two games to go in their season, the Elis look forward to taking on Princeton, which currently match Yale’s 3–2 conference record, and securing their next win. 

This season, Princeton has a split season record and is tied for second place in the Ivy League. 

The Tigers won 23–12 against the University of San Diego on Sept. 16, 10–7 against Columbia on Sept. 29, 21–14 against Harvard on Oct. 21 and 14–3 against Cornell on Oct. 28. Princeton fell 16–13 to Bryant University on Sept. 23, 12–9 to Lafayette College on Oct. 7, 28–27 in overtime to Brown on Oct. 14 and 23–21 to Dartmouth on Nov. 3. 

“They’re obviously very well coached,” Reno said. “I have a lot of respect for their coaches and the way they run their football program.”

In their game against Dartmouth last week, the Tigers won by a 47-yard field goal, kicked by Big Green kicker Owen Zalc with 1:28 remaining in the contest. 

Despite finding themselves in a 10-point deficit early into the game, the Tigers fired back with two unanswered touchdown drives, completed by running back John Volker. Quarterback Blake Stenstrom also made a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Luke Collela in the third quarter, but Princeton was unable to secure the win. 

“They’re very aggressive on defense,” Reno said. “They’ve got a system in place on both sides of the ball they recruit to and they build to and have success with … To win these games, you’ve got to out-execute people.” 

Stenstrom ranks in many areas of Princeton history — seventh in touchdown passes (26), third in completions (420), sixth in completion percentage (65.2) and fourth in passing yards (4,638) and passing yards per game (201.7).

Princeton leads the FCS in fewest touchdowns (10) allowed and points allowed (60) this season. AJ Barber and Collela are tied to lead the team in catches (36), and the two have earned career highs in total yards — 530 and 461, respectively. 

“We talk about it a lot,” linebacker Dean Shaffer ’25 said. “[If] you do everything the right way, someone at the end of the season hands you a trophy.”

Comparing the opponents of Yale and Princeton, the only similarity the two have is a win against Columbia. While Princeton fell to Dartmouth and Brown and won against Cornell, Yale fell to Cornell and claimed victories over Dartmouth and Brown. 

Because of their strong, consistent play over the past couple of weeks, the Elis are more than ready to take on Princeton and pave their way toward the Ivy League Championship. 

“We’re playing better than we had in other weeks because of the intentionality and the ability for us to play with a ton of emotional energy but calmness,” Reno said. “There’s a ton of trust in each other.”

The Bulldogs lead the Ivy League and rank 21st in the FCS in red zone offense (.893), and Grooms leads the Ivy League with 19 touchdown throws, which ranks 11th in the FCS

Grooms also leads the Ivy League in passing efficiency (155.4), ranking 12th in the FCS, and his career 49 touchdown passes rank second in Yale history. 

“Nolan and I played together for, by the end of the season, it’ll be two and a half years,” Tipton said. “The time on the field is very small compared to what we’ve done off the field to be able to perform and have the trust … in the big moments. It speaks volumes about the relationship that Nolan and I have outside of football that allows us to play the way we do on Saturdays.”

Tipton is tied for fourth in school history for touchdowns received in a season. Felton also ranks ninth in school history with 768 kickoff return yards. 

Yale’s defense also tallies an average of 19.1 points per game, which ranks 14th in the FCS. Vaughn’s 66 tackles this season place him at third in the Ivy League, and defensive lineman Clay Patterson ’24 ranks second in the league in sacks (4.5). 

“I’ve just learned so much being around Coach Reno and just great guys in the program,” Tipton said. “The relationships built outshine any of the moments I’ve had on the field. It’s a blessing to have a program like that.”

Kickoff is slated for noon this Saturday in Princeton, New Jersey, and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

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.