Yale Athletics

The Yale football team (6–3, 4–2 Ivy) will look to earn a share of the Ivy League Championship with a win when the Harvard Crimson (8–1, 5–1 Ivy) visit the Yale Bowl for the 139th rendition of The Game.

The Bulldogs have had a strong season, especially of late, as they enter The Game with a three-game winning streak. Yale is sitting in second place in the Ivy League standings, and a win against the first-place Crimson would tie the two teams at five conference wins and give Yale a second consecutive Ivy League title.

Following the start of the Bulldogs season, which saw them lose their opening two games to Holy Cross and Cornell, few outside of the team would have seen them competing for first place in the Ancient Eight. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs felt confident that their luck would change. 

“We felt like it was still sort of controlling our own destiny,” quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 said. “It was a decision the team made that Monday, that Tuesday. You got to come ready to work every day, that’s where decisions were made. We saw it at practice, and we’ve been on a roll ever since and we’re in this place we are in now because of it”

Indeed, the Bulldogs did go on a roll, as the Elis ripped off three straight wins after the loss to Cornell. The Bulldogs were dominant in the three-game stretch, winning the three games by a combined score of 107–30.

The win streak came to an end in a hard-fought loss to Penn, marking Yale’s second conference loss of the season. Once again, the loss didn’t hang over the team, as they have again gone on a three-win streak. 

“We’ve reinvented ourselves three times this season,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Defensively early on we lost Brandon [Benn ’24] and Dathan [Hickey ’24], and then offensively, we walked out of Dartmouth and we had four linemen … a lot of that we had to reinvent was what we were looking at with Nolan too, because he’s had to kind of change gears twice this season. He’s done a great job with it, and we’re really proud of him and obviously, you see the evolution of our offense, our defense and offense.”

The Bulldogs won handily against Columbia and Brown before winning in dramatic fashion against Princeton in double overtime.

Entering The Game, the Bulldogs have shown an ability to win many different styles of games. 

Offensively, Yale has been explosive, having been held under 20 points only once. Quarterback Nolan Grooms, last season’s Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, is the engine behind it all, as his ability to run and throw stresses defenses every week. 

Grooms leads the Ancient Eight in passing touchdowns with 20 on the year and in completion percentage at 66.5 percent. However, throwing is only part of how Grooms can affect a game, as he’s also a threat on the run. The Eli quarterback ranks fourth among all players in the Ivy League with 576 rushing yards on the season.

When the quarterback needs a break, running backs Joshua Pitsenberger ’26, Tre Peterson ’24 and Spencer Alston ’24 have proven to be a lethal platoon. Pitsenberger is the lead man with his eight rushing touchdowns ranking second in the Ivies. 

Through the air, the main story for the Bulldogs has been star wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24. The senior wideout has exploded for 755 receiving yards and ten touchdowns on the season, both top of the Ivy League. His ten touchdowns are also good for third in all of FCS football.

“For me personally, it’s been very eerily similar to last year, the last four games this season were my best games of the season, it’s kind of the same this year,” Grooms said. “I made a decision to be myself, and it’s easy when I’ve got Mason Tipton out there, get the ball to him and everything’s been great.” 

On defense, the Bulldogs have rolled out a strong unit despite early season injuries to the secondary. Up front, Clay Patterson ’24 leads the way with 4.5 sacks on the season, third in the league.

Behind him lies the linebackers in the heart of the defense led by seniors Joseph Vaughn ’24 and Hamilton Moore ’24. The duo has combined for 125 tackles, three forced fumbles and four interceptions on the season. 

Following the early season injuries, the secondary has found continuity in the cornerback duo of captain Wande Owens ’24 and Sean Guyton ’25. The bruising 209-pound Owens often plays to the boundary and isn’t afraid to make a tackle — the cornerback ranks second on the team with 51 total tackles. Guyton meanwhile is often put in a space where he can use his speed to shut down opposing teams’ number-one wide receivers.

What has set the Bulldogs apart from other Ivy teams this season has been their ability to dominate in all three aspects of the game, as special teams have been a strength because they are typically coached by Tony Reno. The Elis are first in the Ancient Eight with an average of 24.6 yards a kickoff return. The team has also blocked three punts this season. 

The Bulldogs have won two of the last three Ivy League championships.

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.
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.