FOOTBALL: Team 150 prepares for The Game
The Yale football team will face Harvard in their final contest of the season this Saturday at the Yale Bowl.
Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer
The Elis (6–3, 4–2 Ivy) will return home to New Haven to face Harvard (8–1, 5–1 Ivy) at the Yale Bowl for the 139th edition of The Game this Saturday.
The Bulldogs earned a 36–28 win against Princeton (4–5, 3–3 Ivy) in their nail-biting double overtime game last Saturday. The score was tied four times throughout the contest, until Yale’s offense took the reins in the second overtime period, edging the Tigers by a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
“I’m just really proud of where we were and where we are now,” head coach Tony Reno said. “Just as a team, nothing to do with wins and losses, it’s just how we’re functioning, how we’re playing, how we’re playing together.”
The Yale football team leads the all-time series 69–61–8 against Harvard, and the Elis have won four of the past six games. The last time the two met was on Nov. 19, 2022, in Cambridge, when Yale earned a 19–14 victory and won the Ivy League Championship.
Despite trailing the Crimson 14–13 early into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs went on the offensive and tallied their second touchdown of the afternoon with 6:29 remaining in the contest. Yale’s defense made three strong stops to secure Team 149 the championship.
“The two things you can expect in this game are adrenaline and adversity,” Reno said. “For us, that’s really like every Saturday.”
The five-yard pass thrown by Grooms to tight end Jackson Hawes ’24 into the endzone after a seven-minute, 75-yard, 13-play drive in the final period gave Yale the game-determining lead. Running back Tre Peterson’s ’24 1-yard run in the first quarter and 20-yard and 41-yard field goals by kicker/punter Jack Bosman ’24 during the second and third quarters, respectively, tallied Yale the 13 points they needed to stay in the game.
The Elis led the game with 363 yards of total offense and 219 rushing yards, holding the Crimson to only 59 rushing yards throughout the contest. After Yale’s final touchdown and 40 minutes of offensive dominance, the Bulldogs’ defense limited Harvard to only one first down for the remaining six minutes of the game.
Linebacker Hamilton Moore ’24 ended Harvard’s final drive and the game itself by intercepting a pass by Crimson quarterback Charlie Dean from the Harvard 25 with 42 seconds remaining on the clock.
“For us, we’re going to approach [The Game] like we have the last four games,” Grooms said. “I think it’s going to be the quickest week … going to soak it all in and hope things turn out the way we want them to on Saturday.”
The Game last year determined who would take home the Ivy League Championship title, as Yale was tied with Princeton for the lead of the league, with a 6–1 conference record. As Yale won and Princeton fell 20–19 to Penn, Team 149 was the sole winner of the Ivy title.
In its game against Princeton last week, the Yale football team battled to the very end, ultimately defeating Princeton 36–28. The Blue and White led the game in total yards, 429–397, and rushing yards, 197–154, in addition to outperforming the Tigers in third down conversions — Yale was 8-of-16, in comparison to Princeton’s 4-of-17.
“Really proud of the team,” Reno said. “The team had overcome a lot on Saturday to win that game. We feel strongly that we build guys who can handle adversity, and really the guys just took the game over.”
Grooms completed 23 of his 30 passes for 232 yards, and running back Joshua Pitsenberger ’26 tallied three touchdowns and his career-high of 131 rushing yards. Linebacker Joseph Vaughn ’24 made a team-high 12 tackles, five of which were for a loss, broke up one pass and was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week last Monday.
Other highlights of the game included a 12-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Joey Felton ’24 early in the fourth quarter and a pass break-up by team captain and defensive back Wande Owens ’24 to close out double-overtime.
“They did an amazing job,” Reno said. “I’m just really proud of how the senior class has really evolved as leaders, but even more importantly how the team is really coming together.”
Coming off of an exciting victory and winning six of their seven past games, the Bulldogs are ready to take on their ultimate rival, Harvard, back on their home turf.
Harvard has had a strong season to date, only suffering a singular loss and ranking first in the Ivy League.
In non-conference play, the Crimson won 43–13 against the University of St. Thomas on Sept. 16, 38–28 against Holy Cross on Sept. 30 and 48–7 against Howard University on Oct. 14. In Ivy League play, Harvard won 34–31 against Brown on Sept. 22, 41–23 against Cornell on Oct. 6, 17–9 against Dartmouth on Oct. 28, 38–24 against Columbia on Nov. 4 and 25–23 in triple overtime against the University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 11.
Harvard’s sole loss on the season was to Princeton in a 21–14 game on Oct. 21.
“We’re fortunate for the opportunity we have on Saturday and play our game,” Reno said. “It’s a great opportunity to see how good can Team 150 be … our focus is on each day.”
In its game against Penn last weekend, the Crimson closed out the first half in a 10-point deficit but made a comeback by the end of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20–20. In overtime, both teams scored field goals, tying the score yet again at 23–23.
Harvard managed to finally close out the contest with a successful pass from quarterback Jaden Craig to wide receiver Scott Woods II, who tossed the ball to wide receiver Cooper Barkate, who then found Craig in the endzone, tallying a two-point convention and securing Harvard the win.
“First of all, never a dull moment,” Head Coach Tim Murphy told the Harvard Crimson. “We had so many opportunities that we didn’t necessarily cash in, but at the end of the day, our kids showed their character. ‘Never give up, never ever give up’ has always been our mantra, and obviously today was the epitome of that. So proud of our kids, so proud of our coaches — it was just a great day for Harvard football.”
The win tallied Harvard’s eighth of the season, making their nine-game record the best in school history since 2015. The Crimson led the contest 384–341 in total yards, 253–232 in passing yards and 131–109 in rushing yards.
Craig completed 23-of-36 passes for 253 yards, a two-point conversion reception and three touchdowns — one passing and two rushing — which set his career high in pass completions. Crimson running back Shane McLaughlin had 27 carries for 88 yards, and Barkate caught eight passes for 125 yards.
Defensively, defensive lineman Thor Griffith led the team with 10 tackles — his career high — and 2.0 tackles for loss, and defensive back Damien Henderson made an interception. Linebacker Matt Hudson had nine tackles, while safety Ty Bartrum tallied eight tackles and a sack.
“Both [Princeton quarterback Luke Collella and Barkate] are really good receivers,” Reno said. “Both have good speed, both smooth in space … Barkate has been a guy that can play inside and outside, as can Collella, both really good players.”
The win granted Harvard, at minimum, a share of the Ivy League Championship, the 10th earned by Crimson head coach Tim Murphy, which ties Yale’s former head coach Carm Cozza for most in Ivy League history.
When comparing both Yale and Harvard’s conference records, Harvard has seen only one more win. While Harvard has conquered each of its Ivy opponents except for Princeton, Yale defeated Princeton but dropped games against Cornell and Penn.
Despite trailing the Crimson by a conference win, the Bulldogs are amped up and ready to defend the Yale Bowl and vie for a share of the championship title.
“You have got to come ready to work every day,” quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24 said. “That’s what decision we made, we saw it in practice and we’ve been on a roll ever since.”
Yale ranks first in the Ivy League and 15th in the FCS in passing efficiency (153.4), as well as number one in the league and ninth in the FCS in kickoff returns. Yale also leads the league in third down conversion percentage, ranking sixth in the FCS.
Wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24 leads the Ivy League in receiving yards (755) and touchdowns (10), ranking 25th and third in the FCS, respectively. Grooms leads the league in passing efficiency (155.0), ranking 14th in the FCS.
“It’s easy when I’ve got Mason Tipton out there to get the ball to him,” Grooms said. “Things have been great.”
Defensively, Vaughn leads the league in solo tackles for loss (11) and interception return yards (121), which ranks Yale first in the Ancient Eight with a total of 200 interception return yards.
The Game is set to kickoff at noon this Saturday at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut. The contest will be nationally televised on ESPNU.