Tag Archive: Football

  1. Y-H Spissue: Team 148 to host the “Team from the North” in 137th playing of The Game

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    Yale and Harvard will continue their historic rivalry on Saturday in the 137th edition of The Game. Yale leads the series 68–60–8 all-time. The last time these two teams met, the Bulldogs forged an unforgettable 17-point fourth quarter comeback and ultimately won the contest 50–43 in double overtime to secure a share of the Ivy League title.

    The Bulldogs (5–4, 4–2 Ivy) and Crimson (7–2, 4–2 Ivy) enter the final game of the season tied for third place in the Ivy League and one game behind Princeton and Dartmouth. These latter two programs have handed Yale and Harvard their only conference losses this season. The winner of The Game will have an outside shot at sharing the Ivy title — the Tigers and Big Green would both need to suffer losses to Penn and Brown, respectively. The Quakers and Bears have combined for only two conference wins all year.

    “It’s one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports,” Yale head coach Tony Reno said on Tuesday at a press conference. “To be a part of it, to be a small piece of it has been really amazing … you got a great crowd, a great atmosphere, you got an FBS atmosphere at your game which is a really, really great thing. From a selfish point of view, I would venture to say there’s very few schools in the FCS that get this kind of venue to play in once a year.”

    Harvard had a strong start to the season, winning their first five games to set up an undefeated first place showdown with Princeton in week six. Included in that stretch was a Crimson blowout 38–13 victory against the Patriot League champion Holy Cross Crusaders, who defeated Yale in the Bulldogs’ season opener. 

    Finding themselves in a competitive overtime battle against Princeton a few weeks later, the Crimson on two separate occasions believed they had won their sixth consecutive game. The celebration for each was short lived, however, as both game-winning scores were subsequently wiped off the board by officials after review. The Tigers eventually went on to score the winning points in the game’s fifth overtime period. The following day, the Ivy League released a statement admitting an officiating error on one of the scores and acknowledging that Harvard should have walked away victorious.

    “[We] had it won once … had it won twice … still, the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Harvard head coach Tim Murphy said after the game.

    The game result stood nevertheless, and the Crimson returned home to host Dartmouth with one loss on their resume. Harvard played in its second consecutive nailbiter, ultimately losing again on a last minute Big Green field goal.

    “The team from the North, they’re an experienced team,” Reno said. The Yale coach, who recently became the sixth Bulldog coach to cross the 50-win threshold, also called the Crimson “the most talented team in the Ivy League from top to bottom.”

    The Crimson enter The Game as the second best scoring offense in the Ancient Eight. Over nine games, Harvard is averaging over 32 points per contest, just a point behind the league leading Princeton Tigers. The offense is anchored by junior running back Aaron Shampklin, who ranks second in the conference in total rushing yards. Shampklin averages 5.7 yards a carry and has 11 touchdowns in only eight games. The Crimson have also seen three different quarterbacks attempt a pass for them this season — rookie gunslinger Charlie Dean started the season but suffered a season-ending injury. Senior Jake Smith got the first shot at replacing Dean, but was ultimately benched and replaced by junior Luke Emge in the fourth quarter of the Crimson’s battle against Dartmouth. Emge emerged victorious in his first career start against Columbia two weeks ago.

    The Crimson enter the contest yielding the second best defensive unit in the conference. Harvard has only conceded 13.1 points per game — good for fourth best in the FCS — and is coming off a game against Penn where they allowed only seven points. The unit is buoyed by the best rush defense in the league — the Crimson give up fewer than two yards per carry. Leading the way is junior safety James Herring, who ranks fourth in the conference with 63 total tackles. Along the defensive line, junior Jacob Sykes adds seven sacks, the best total on the team.

    In the secondary, the Crimson have two play-makers at the cornerback position in sophomore Alex Washington and senior Khalid Thomas, who are both tied for the conference lead in interceptions with three each. The Crimson pass defense has accumulated more than twice the interceptions of any other team in the Ancient Eight and has conceded the fewest passing touchdowns.

    The Crimson will have a tough time slowing down a Yale offense that enters the contest averaging nearly 30 points a game. The Bulldogs started the season with quarterback Griffin O’Connor ’23 as the primary signal-caller. O’Connor won the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award in 2018 after starting three games in relief of the injured Kurt Rawlings ’20. With Team 148, O’Connor navigated the Elis to a 2–2 record and was replaced at halftime of Yale’s loss to UConn by Nolan Grooms ’24. Reno later said that Grooms set himself apart in the following week of practice and earned the starting job. 

    During his first collegiate start, Grooms led Yale in a game against Penn to a 3–1 record. The sophomore from South Carolina has won two Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week awards during the late-season stretch. 

    Grooms will have the benefit of taking the field alongside running backs Spencer Alston ’23 and Zane Dudek ’22. The latter, who started all 10 games a season ago en route to second-team All-Ivy honors, has missed some time in the middle of this season but is expected to play on Saturday. Alston has performed admirably in relief and ranks ninth in the conference in yards per carry. Alston won Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his breakout 116-yard, two touchdown performance against Columbia.

    “I think the biggest thing when you look at it, and how we look at it week in and week out, is us being able to control the areas that are important to us,” Reno said. “A few of them are our ability to play a physical game, and another one is our ability to respond when adversity hits and in our ability to focus on process, not outcome.”

    Out wide, Grooms has had the luxury to lean on some excellent weapons over the course of his four starts. Receiver Mason Tipton ’24, while ranking just 17th in the league with 24 receptions, has amassed 509 receiving yards — good for eighth among all receivers in the Ancient Eight. Tipton has been on the receiving end of many explosive plays since Grooms took over the reins on offense. In fact, Tipton’s average mark of 21.2 yards per reception is second only to teammate and co-star Chase Nenad ’24 in the whole league. Tipton arguably had his best performance during a come-from-behind victory against Columbia. On the drive that marked the beginning of the comeback, Grooms went deep on back-to-back plays to Tipton for 30-plus yard gains.

    While Team 148’s defense ranks towards the bottom of the league in points per game allowed, the unit features a number of standout performers. In the middle of the field, the Elis have been able to rely on the presence of captain and linebacker John Dean ’22 game-in and game-out. Dean leads the team in tackles and ranks third in the conference in this category.

    “All the focus is on this week,” Dean said. “I’ll leave the nostalgia to postgame. I think there’s too much preparation to be had right now to let thoughts about the last four or five years get in the way. This is a game that we really want to win … We still got unfinished business and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to play a great game.”

    On the line, Clay Patterson ’24 has put together one of the most dominant seasons of any defender in the FCS this year. The sophomore has registered a total of 11.5 sacks in the nine games he has started — three more than the next closest player in the Ivy League. He leads all other Ancient Eight players with 13 tackles for loss and is second in the FCS with 1.28 sacks per game. 

    Patterson was recently added to the watch-list for FCS Defensive Player of the Year. 

    “My goal personally is just to play hard every play,” Patterson said following his four-sack performance against Lehigh. “When you play hard, good things will happen … it just goes to show how we have a lot of trust in each other, since we expect the person who’s open on the play to execute.” 

    The Eli pass defense has been strong all season long — linebacker Rodney Thomas II ’22 is third in the Ancient Eight in pass breakups, defensive back Wande Owens ’23 is fifth in the same metric and defensive back Dathan Hickey ’23 leads the conference with four forced fumbles.

    Saturday’s game will mark the 137th running of The Game. Two years ago, Yale and Harvard delivered an unforgettable performance, which included a half-time protest and two overtimes. After the Elis and Crimson traded scores in the first overtime, the two teams marched down the field to continue play on opposite end of the Yale Bowl.

    “The other reason we flipped the field was because of the students’ section,” Reno told reporters in the Tuesday press conference. “And our students’ section was just off the charts, they were amazing … When you’re an opposing offense and you got to deal with a students’ section that’s pretty loud, pretty crazy, it makes your ability to handle calls and deal with things tough. So I give a lot of credit to those students who helped us out with that win.”

    The Bulldogs will see a number of starters play their final collegiate snaps on Saturday, including Dean and wideout Melvin Rouse II ’22, who spoke with the media on Tuesday.

    “This week, I’m just really trying to finish out strong, teammate wise, [for] the younger guys and everyone under me,” Rouse said. “When my name comes up, it’s not about how great of a player or the NFL, it’s just how good of a teammate I was while I was here.”

    The 137th rendition of the game will kickoff at 12 p.m. on Saturday from the Yale Bowl. ESPN-U will broadcast the game live. 

  2. Y-H Spissue: Four former Elis’ paths to the NFL

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    Over the last six years, several bulldogs have traded their blue and white jerseys for the many colors of NFL team gear. 

    For Tyler Varga ’15, 2015 was a big year. Not only did he graduate from Yale with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, but he also joined the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent. Three years later, in 2018, two additional Elis joined the NFL. Foyesade Oluokun ’18 and Jaeden Graham ’18 remained teammates; Oluokun was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft, while Graham was also picked up by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent. Then, in 2020, the Chicago Browns selected Dieter Eiselen ’20 in the “eighth round” post-draft period. 

    “Our players go on to do some pretty amazing things,” Yale football head coach Tony Reno told the News in 2020. “All Yale students do, but to have [Oluokun and Graham] playing professionally is awesome for us. We’re really excited for them and their journeys — journeys that were both a little different.”

    While they all transitioned from the Yale Bowl to the Big Stage, each Eli took a different path to the national league.

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    Tyler Varga

    Tyler Varga originally played for University of Western Ontario before joining the Bulldogs for his sophomore year in 2012 as a tailback. As an Eli, Varga was one of the most successful rushers in Yale history. Varga put up 2,985 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns — the fourth- and third- most in program history, respectively. The Finnish-Canadian was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year his final season.

    After graduation, Varga joined the Indianapolis Colts. Due to a severe concussion in his third game, Varga was out for the season. As a result, Varga decided to put his health first and retire from the NFL after just one season with the Colts. 

    At the time, Varga told the Indy Star, “Thank God I went to Yale.” 

    He now works as a senior investment analyst at ARC Financial Corp.

    Foyesade Oluokun

    The St. Louis native was one of the highest-rated recruits in Missouri during his high school career as a linebacker at John Burroughs School. He received offers from Harvard, Yale and Penn; naturally, he chose the Blue and White. 

    In his first season as a Bulldog in 2013, Oluokun led the rookies in the Ivy League with 60 tackles. As an Eli, Oluokun was granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility to play football after he suffered from a pectoral tear in his chest during Week 3 of his junior season. During his red-shirt senior season in 2017, Oluokun completed nine tackles and a sack against Harvard, limiting the Crimson to just three points and securing the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title. 

    After Yale, the six-foot-two linebacker participated in drills at Pro Day with 20 NFL scouts. He also attended several pre-draft visits with NFL teams. The Falcons drafted him in the sixth round, as the 200th overall pick of the NFL draft.

    “I viewed myself as an undrafted free agent, especially because I came out of a small school, so I wasn’t sure how much film they had watched of me,” Oluokun told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after a training camp session in August 2020. “They didn’t know I had that much grit at Yale, which was all we preached there. I was ready to do whatever it took to make the team.” 

    As a member of the Falcons’ defense, Oluokun became the first rookie since Keanu Neal in 2016 to record 89 tackles in a single season, the fourth-most tackles by a rookie in Falcons history. He is currently a starter for Atlanta in his fourth season with the team.

    Jaeden Graham’s journey

    Also on the Falcons’ roster is Jaeden Graham. As a multi-sport athlete in high school, Graham had to choose whether to pursue baseball or football at the collegiate level. He ended up favoring the pigskin and the Bulldogs.

    After two lackluster seasons with the Elis, coaches switched Graham’s position from offensive linebacker to tight end. Although it took him a season to get a hold of the new position, Graham “simply redefined the position of tight end for us at Yale” during his senior season, Reno told the News in 2020.

    He led all Ancient Eight tight ends that year with four receiving touchdowns, 26 receptions and 380 yards. As a result of his historic season, Graham was named First Team All-Ivy League and First Team All-ECAC. 

    “Jaeden has an incredible story of perseverance,” Kurt Rawlings ’20 –– quarterback for the 2017 Yale team –– said in 2020. “You certainly do not become an All-Ivy and NFL tight end in one season out of luck.”

    Graham’s hard work did not end after graduation. He managed to work his way into NFL mini-camps with the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons. Graham signed onto the practice squad with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent.

    During his rookie 2019 season with the Falcons, Graham stepped in after their starting tight end, Austin Hooper, was injured. In the two weeks he started, Graham obtained five catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. During his 16 games in the season of 2020, Graham contributed on offense and special teams, resulting in three receptions for 25 yards. 

    In his two complete seasons in the NFL, Graham played in 32 games, recording 12 receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown. Currently, Graham is on the injury reserve list for the Atlanta Falcons due to a knee injury.

    Dieter Eiselen

    Prior to Yale, the South African grew up playing rugby. After graduating from high school, he contacted a variety of preparatory schools in the United States to see if they would accept him for a 5th year so he could play football. Choate Rosemary Hall accepted him, and Eiselen helped lead the team to the 2015 NEPSAC Championship game. 

    In his second official year of competitive football, the six-foot-four, 300-pound Yale first-year made an impact at his position as a linebacker. In his sophomore year, Eiselen was a game-changer for the Elis, playing a vital role in running back Zane Dudek’s ’21 historic year of leading the league in every rushing and scoring category. Eiselen earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention the same year. For his success in his junior season, Eiselen was named Second Team All-Ivy League and Phil Steele First Team All-Ivy League. 

    Eiselen continued to thrive with the Bulldogs and helped Yale finish out his collegiate career first in total offense in the Ancient Eight. For his efforts in his final season, Eiselen made First Team All-Ivy and the AP All-American Third Team. Additionally, he was selected to play in the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, which is a premier showcase for draft-eligible talent. During the game in January 2020, Eiselen helped the National Team squad to a 30-20 win as an offensive lineman.

    The Chicago Bears recognized Eiselen’s athleticism and talent, and picked him up as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2020 NFL draft.

    “I’m extremely excited for the opportunity and ready to seize it by any means possible,” Eiselen told the News in 2020. “I cannot wait to get to work and push my mind and body beyond its limits.”

    Eiselen is currently in his second season with the Bears, where he played in two games.

  3. Y-H Spissue: New Haven businesses gear up for Yale-Harvard Game

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    On Nov. 20, New Haven will host Harvard and Yale fans for the highly anticipated Yale-Harvard Game. As the game-day approaches, hotels are booking up and popular local spot Claire’s Cornercopia is stocking up on coffee cake.

    Last year, the event was slated to take place in Cambridge, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yale-Harvard Game brings together alumni from both schools, students and faculty in an annual event. This year, since the Game will be hosted in New Haven, business owners expressed excitement for the crowds the weekend will bring, especially since the event was canceled last year. 

    “This has been a long, long road,” said Claire Criscuolo, Founder of Claire’s Cornercopia. “We could use a break or a boost. Having the Harvard-Yale game is the boost we need.”

    Claire’s has been in business for 46 years, so Criscuolo said they have plenty of experience with preparing for The Game. 

    According to Criscuolo, Claire’s is preparing to make sure they have plenty of baked goods for the weekend, especially the famous Lithuanian coffee cake — which Harvard fans will want when they lose, Criscuolo told the News. 

    “Coffee cake is the most important thing,” Criscuolo said. “We cannot run out of baked goods. That said, [Harvard and Yale fans] eat everything. Everything becomes portable when it comes to the Game.”

    In addition to the highly anticipated football game, Criscuolo said that Claire’s is “extra excited” about all events this year because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the past two years. She said that they are most excited for Yale alumni reunions to be back in person as well. 

    New Haven’s hotels are also excited for the business. Even more than normal years, Harvard fans and students will need a place to stay since Harvard students are prohibited from staying in Yale dorms over the weekend. 

    “The past year has been challenging overall and we missed the excitement felt throughout the hotel in general, especially during these important athletic weekends,” Heather Gayatgay, director of brand marketing and communications at The Study at Yale, wrote to the News. 

    According to Gayatgy, The Study at Yale is completely booked for the Game. Gayatgay said the bookings filled up quickly after Yale announced its outdoor attendance policy at athletic events. 

    “Guests are eager to attend events in-person again, interest is even stronger during high profile games such as Yale – Harvard,” Gayatgay wrote. 

    Heather added that The Study has an “extensive” waitlist for rooms. She does not think people will get off the waitlist before the game. 

    Dana Zimmerman, director of sales and marketing at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, also wrote to the News that the hotel is very busy the weekend of the Game. According to Zimmerman, the Omni is completely sold out on Nov. 19 and has been for several months, but there are still rooms left for Nov. 20, which is game-day. 

    Zimmerman wrote that the hotel will offer a “lobby experience of complimentary beverages” before The Game as people start pre-gaming. Hotel room demand for the day of this year’s Harvard-Yale game is on par with 2019’s iteration, according to Zimmerman. There is currently no more room on the waiting list at this point. Zimmerman wrote that the event is “very exciting for the staff.”

    Similarly, The Graduate New Haven is fully booked both Friday and Saturday. Graduate New Haven’s General Manager Dominic Ruggieri wrote that the hotel typically sees bookings begin to fill up in late spring or early summer for the weekend of The Game. 

    According to Rosenberg, The Graduate New Haven has a short waiting list, but the hotel does not expect cancellations. She also wrote that The Graduate New Haven’s bar, Old Heidelberg, will open at 9 a.m. instead of 4 p.m. on the day of the Game to accommodate hotel guests and sports fans. 

    “We are excited to see travel demand climb to pre-COVID levels, and this weekend is no exception,” Rosenberg wrote to the News. “The Harvard-Yale rivalry brings travelers from across the country to New Haven, and after a challenging year, this year’s game feels especially significant for the community.” 

    The Game will take place at 12 p.m. on Nov. 20 in the Yale Bowl, and information on buying tickets can be found here. 

    Correction, Nov. 19: This article has been updated to attribute information about booking timelines to the Graduate’s general manager.

  4. Y-H Spissue: Bulldogs’ young talent proves a highlight in mixed season

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    Team 148 entered the season with high expectations — a 16-person media panel projected the Elis would finish second in the Ivy League behind Princeton. The Elis received six first place votes, a sign of confidence in the relatively veteran squad led by linebacker and captain John Dean ’22, safety Rodney Thomas II ’22, wide receiver Melvin Rouse II ’22 and running back Zane Dudek ’22. Excitement for the season extended to quarterback Griffin O’Connor ’23, who had won the conference’s Rookie of the Year award in 2018 after three impressive starts in relief of the injured Kurt Rawlings ’20.

    Patriot league champions Holy Cross spoil opener

    After more than 600 days away from competition, the Bulldogs opened the season with an uneven performance against Holy Cross. The Crusaders were a tough opponent for Team 148 — Patriot league coaches and sports directors voted Holy Cross as the most likely to win the conference. Entering the final week of play, the Crusaders lived up to the hype, clinching at least a share of the Patriot title and holding sole possession of first place with a 5–0 conference and 8–2 overall record. The Bulldogs held a halftime lead at the Yale Bowl, but could not hold on — the Crusaders hit a game-winning field goal with less than a minute left to hand the Bulldogs a loss to start the season.

    Big win against the Big Red

    The following week, Team 148 responded in its Ivy League opener with a 23–17 win against Cornell. O’Connor led the way, throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns. The Elis gained more than 400 yards of total offense and forced Big Red quarterback Richie Kenney into three interceptions, two of them picked off by Thomas. 

    Blowout in Bethlehem

    Building on their first win of the season, the Bulldogs traveled to Lehigh the following week and routed the Mountain Hawks 34–0 — the Elis’ first shutout since a 2017 win against Holy Cross. The blowout allowed backup quarterback Nolan Grooms ’24, who had seen limited action as a gadget player in the first few weeks, to get extended run. Grooms capitalized on the opportunity, throwing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on only eight attempts, adding 30 yards rushing.

    Big Green stand strong in overtime

    A week later, the Bulldogs traveled to Hanover, where, two years ago, they suffered their only loss of the season. The game featured a defensive battle between the two Ancient Eight foes. With eight minutes left in the game, O’Connor and the Bulldogs trailed 14–10. Team 148 put together a 14-play drive that featured three fourth down conversions, including one fake field goal with Grooms on the field and the final play of the drive that resulted in a five-yard touchdown with just over two minutes left. A few plays later, the Yale sideline stormed the field, believing their defense had just won the game after forcing an incompletion on fourth and one. The officials quickly put an end to the jubilation, as a contentious targeting call extended the Big Green drive. Dartmouth would go on to tie the game, and ultimately prevailed in overtime, handing Yale its first conference loss of the season.

    The Battle of Connecticut resumes

    The Bulldogs’ third straight road game came against an old rival: the University of Connecticut. The conference independent Huskies entered the game as arguably the worst team in the FBS, the football subdivision that hosts the country’s most elite teams, like Clemson, Alabama and Wisconsin. UConn had not won a game in two years and was riding an 11-game losing streak. The Huskies fired their coach just a few games into the season, after a loss to fellow FCS foe, the aforementioned Crusaders. Yale had not played an FBS opponent since it beat Army in 2014, but entered the contest as slight favorites. Despite that, the game was one of O’Connor’s worst as a starter. The junior threw three interceptions in the first half and accumulated only 59 passing yards. The Bulldogs entered halftime down 14–0 and let up another touchdown to extend the deficit to 21–0 shortly after the break. Head coach Tony Reno made a quarterback change at halftime, turning to the sophomore Grooms. The South Carolina native led a comeback, bringing the Bulldogs within six with a chance to win the game at the end, but ultimately Team 148 fell short in the 50th rendition of the Battle of Connecticut.

    Elis overwhelm UPenn

    Yale returned home sitting at 2–3 after consecutive losses. Despite not committing to a starter midweek, Reno told the reporters after the game that Grooms separated himself from O’Connor during the team’s week of practice. A week after almost beating UConn, the sophomore led the offense onto the field for his first career start against Penn. Yale handled the Quakers, winning the contest by two touchdowns. Grooms was awarded Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his performance, which featured 283 passing yards, 113 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

    Bulldogs chase away Lions

    Yale, looking to claw its way back into the fight for the Ivy crown, hosted Columbia the following week. The Lions had just upset Dartmouth 19–0 and hoped to forge their own path to a conference title. Team 148, again led by Grooms, found itself in a hole yet again. Entering the second half, the Elis were behind 20–14 and had trailed by as many as 11 points. Grooms navigated an impressive comeback for the second time in three weeks, this time also leaning heavily on running back Spencer Alston ’23, who had been playing for the injured Dudek. Alston won Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his 116-yard, two touchdown effort. Wideout Mason Tipton ’24 led the Bulldogs in receiving yards with 112. Yale prevailed 37–30 through pouring rain at the Yale Bowl.

    Yale bears down on Brown

    With only three games left in the season, every game carried additional weight. The Elis were set to kick off a two-game road trip in Providence, facing FCS All-American quarterback EJ Perry. The Brown defense, which entered the contest dead last in the conference, did little to improve its poor metrics. Despite another strong effort from Perry, the Bulldogs ran away with the game 63–38. The win, coupled with Princeton’s first loss of the season, moved the Bulldogs into a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League. Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth all entered the penultimate week with only one loss on their resumes.

    Title hopes fall at Princeton

    For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs traveled to Princeton to take on the Tigers in a critical Ivy League matchup. In 2019, an impressive 37-point win kept Team 147’s title hopes alive. This time around, the Tigers got the better of the Bulldogs. Yale looked like it would enter halftime leading 17–14 after a late field goal from Jack Bosman ’24, but Princeton’s senior quarterback Cole Smith put together a touchdown drive in less than a minute to give Princeton the lead and the momentum. The Tigers never looked back, stifling the Elis and outsourcing Yale 14–3 in the third quarter. The Bulldogs ultimately fell 35–20 and saw their Ivy hopes all but disappear.
    Despite the disappointment, the Bulldogs saw their young talent flash all season long. Defensive end Clay Patterson ’24 leads the conference in sacks and is on the watch list for the FCS Defensive Player of the Year award. Along the defensive line, the Bulldogs do not have a senior listed as a starter and Reid Nickerson ’23 had a great year in his own right, ranking top ten in the conference in sacks. In the secondary, three juniors will return to form a formidable unit next season: Dathan Hickey ’23, Miles Oldacre ’23, and Wande Owens ’23. Hickey enters the final week of the season as the conference leader in forced fumbles. On the offensive side, Alston stepped up in Dudek’s absence and solidified himself as a lead back. Tipton stepped up to fill the big shoes of Reed Klubik ’20 and David Pantelis ’25 won Ivy League Rookie and Special Teams Players of the Week awards, respectively after beating Brown. The penultimate contest against the Tigers also featured four first- or second-year starters along the offensive line.

  5. Y-H Spissue: Micah Awodiran ’22, activist, student-athlete, and more

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    As the fallen leaves scatter the sidewalks outside of the Yale Bowl, the seniors on the Yale football team, including linebacker Micah Awodiran ’22, prepare for their final matchup against rival Harvard. 

    Awodiran is the creator of the “Bulldog Ballot Challenge,” a department-wide initiative that succeeded in getting every eligible student-athlete and coach at Yale registered to vote. The challenge was led by Yale Bulldogs for Change, a coalition of 16 student-athletes across nine teams to improve the experience of Yale athletes of color. 

    “Everyone has a civic duty to go out and vote and, obviously, there’s going to be a way,” Awodiran said. “So I really just wanted to lead an initiative to where everyone who was eligible to vote on campus had the resources to cast their ballot because it was such a pivotal election.”

    At an August brainstorming meeting with the YBC, Awodiran suggested creating a challenge between teams to incentivize voter registration. This effort ultimately led to a total of 739 students and coaches registering to vote.  

    Along with Awodiran’s initiative, the NCAA also later passed legislation to give all student-athletes the day off from practice and competition on Nov. 2 to grant them the opportunity to exercise their civic duty.

    “You know how competitive we are, and also it’s a very big election, so we wanted to get as many people to vote as possible, and this is a great way to do it,” Yale football assistant head coach Derrick Lett said to the News in 2020. “We were all very pleased and very impressed with the idea, and we took it and ran with it.”

    Before beginning his work with the Bulldog Ballot Challenge, Awodiran started an organization called “Students of the Diaspora,” through his involvement with the Afro-American Cultural Center. The purpose of the club was to create a common space for West Indian, African American and first-generation African students.

    A political science major studying African American history, African history, women’s, gender and sexuality studies, in addition to other disciplines, Awodiran has also participated in community action and protest, including Yale: Respect New Haven initiatives. 

    “I’ve definitely admired my peers as far as their ability to organize and use their voices to move important issues forward,” Awodiran said. “So for anywhere that I could be an active participant, I always wanted to make sure that I was kind of [there and] doing that.”

    Awodiran is not only an advocate in the Yale community, he is also a leader on the field. He described his experience with the seniors on his team when he was an underclassman, and how they inspired him to “bring younger guys into the fold” and create a team culture of dedication. 

    In a team with two classes of rookies with little to no collegiate experience, Awodiran is focused on getting them acclimated to the program and maintaining the success the Elis have had in past years.  

    “For him to step up and realize that he can make a real difference and get 739 people in the athletics community to register to vote, that just speaks to the leadership abilities he has and how special he can be,” linebacker John Dean ’22 said in November 2020. “So for me, I’m not shocked, but extremely impressed, and I love what he’s doing.”

    Awodiran recorded a season-high 13 tackles in a game against Penn earlier this season.

  6. Y-H Spissue: Harvard students navigate new travel, lodging, and cost challenges to attend Yale-Harvard Game

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    Since learning that Yalies cannot host Harvard students the night before the Yale-Harvard game, students are navigating a host of considerations to travel to New Haven and take in the sporting event.

    For the 2021 Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 20, the first since the pandemic, Harvard students will not be permitted to stay in Yale dorms due to COVID-19 restrictions. Harvard students have been encouraged to leave Cambridge for Yale on Saturday morning. For this reason, Harvard’s shuttles that are usually offered on both the Friday and Saturday of the weekend of the game are only being offered on Saturday, and at minimal capacity. Previously, Harvard students would often come to Yale on the Friday before the game and stay in Yale dorms. With restrictions in place, many Harvard students told the News they are searching for alternate lodging. 

    “I think this new plan disadvantages students who cannot afford rides [or] places to stay overnight and people who do not know individuals at Yale especially since students from Ivy League feeder schools have more friends at Yale,” Harvard junior Andrea Liu said.

    Liu said she has friends who attend Yale, and has friends from Harvard who live in New Haven. She plans to come to Yale on Friday afternoon and stay at her Harvard friend’s New Haven house. Liu believes going on Friday is a “better plan” than taking one of the Harvard shuttles on Saturday; she was worried about not arriving at The Game on time. 

    Liu says many other students at Harvard are also coming on the Friday before The Game. Some are planning to rent AirBnBs, and others are looking to stay with off-campus students, she said. 

    “[We] are not sure about the consequences and are not worried about them, but rather our larger fear is, what if Yale doesn’t let us in [to dorms],” Liu said in regards to her decision to avoid staying with friends on campus at Yale. 

    Kalyan Palepu, a Harvard junior, has a similar plan. He plans to come on Friday and stay with the family of a friend who lives in New Haven. 

    “I have to believe that Yale won’t force Harvard students who come on Friday hoping to sleep at Yale to not have a place to sleep for the night,” Palepu wrote in an email to the News.

    This is especially worrisome for students on financial aid, Harvard junior Diana Meza said. Meza is a student on financial aid and is planning to stay with friends at Yale. She said Harvard offered free round-trip transportation on Saturday to students eligible through the Harvard Student Events Fund––a program at Harvard that offers qualifying students free tickets to student events, according to Harvard’s website––but those tickets were sold out by the time Meza tried to purchase them. 

    Tickets for the Yale-Harvard game were available for pickup at various athletic events throughout the past week and at Payne Whitney Gym.

  7. Y-H Spissue: Head coach Tony Reno reflects on 50 career wins

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    In a game against the University of Pennsylvania on October 23, 2021, Tony Reno recorded his 50th career win as head coach of the Yale football team. That accolade, held by only five other coaches in Yale’s history, has been nine years in the making. 

    Reno took over as the Bulldogs head coach on January 12, 2012. Within six short years, the Massachusetts native brought home his first Ivy League championship. The Blue and White had not captured a share of the Ivy title since 2006, and had not won an outright championship since 1980, when Reno was six years old. Entering the 2017 season, Reno’s Bulldogs were projected to finish fourth in the conference. Reno navigated his team to a 9–1 record and 6–1 conference record, the only loss coming by a single point at Dartmouth. Reno’s team finished ranking 24th in the FCS after securing the Ivy title at home in a 24–3 beatdown of Harvard.

    In 2019, Reno captured his second Ivy title in three years and his third victory over Harvard in four tries. Team 147 went 9–1 overall and 6–1 in the conference, again only dropping a game to Dartmouth on the road. Since taking over as head coach, Reno has only posted two losing seasons and finished worse than fourth in the conference only once.

    Reno’s hiring in 2012 marked his return to New Haven after a three-year absence. In 2003, the Worcester State graduate joined former head coach Jack Siedlecki’s coaching staff as the wide receivers coach. The following year, he transitioned to lead the Bulldogs’ defensive backs, given his collegiate experience as a safety. In 2009, Ivy rival Harvard identified Reno’s talent and hired him as their special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach. The Crimson went undefeated in Reno’s final year with the team.

    “I’ve been fortunate to have some great players and some great assistant coaches,” Reno reflected after his 50th milestone win. “The success we’ve had, they’ve been a huge part of it and like I say all the time, I’m just a small piece in a great organization here. I’m very proud of what we’ve built and even more excited [about] where we’re going to take it.”

    Reno also said that he hopes to carry on the legacy of College Football Hall of Fame coach Carmen Cozza, who won 10 Ivy League championships and 179 wins over his 32-year career as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

    “Looking back at the history of Yale football and what Coach Cozza was able to do, it’s a goal of mine to be able to honor that and build on it, and just keep chasing greatness week in, week out, year in and year out,” Reno said.

    Coach Reno won his first game as the Bulldogs’ head coach in the 2012 season opener against Georgetown.

  8. Y-H Spissue: New Connecticut name, image and likeness law proves profitable for student-athletes

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    Since June 30, 2021, when Connecticut governor Ned Lamont signed into law an act allowing student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, Yale’s student-athletes have explored a number of ways of benefiting from the now-legalized practice.

    After Lamont signed the bill into law, Yale Athletics developed and released its own name, image and likeness policy.  Now written as a four page document on the Yale Athletics website, it governs all NIL agreements for Yale student-athletes, including those who compete outside of the NCAA. The document emphasizes that the “NIL landscape for collegiate student-athletes is still developing,” so the policy is subject to change.

    For women’s golf captain Ami Gianchandani ’23, the new NIL policy offers opportunities that were inaccessible under previous regulations. Gianchandani is the co-founder and CEO of Accel Golf, a company that specializes in providing golfers with custom analytics to help improve their performance.

    “Before I wasn’t really able to tie my name or my image to the business,” Gianchandani said. “But now that I am, I’m able to reach a much bigger customer base and have some credibility… I can attach my name, my school, my sport to the information in my bio, so that’s been a huge help.”

    Gianchandani explained that her newfound ability to promote her own business is somewhat of an unconventional NIL deal. For most student-athletes, the process of engaging in an NIL deal starts with contacting established brands or businesses. According to Gianchandani, these endorsement deals take a variety of forms — for example, student-athletes might be compensated for a post on social media or they might agree to wear a brand’s logo.

    Bennie Anderson ’24, an offensive lineman on the football team, has engaged in multiple NIL agreements. Anderson stressed the importance of developing a consistent personal brand on social media platforms so companies feel confident when facilitating a partnership. The Missouri native also emphasized the need to partner with trustworthy people and companies. 

    “My NIL deal with State Farm is through a person who I knew from back home who I trust,” Anderson said. “I think that’s probably one of the more important things.”

    Other members of the Yale football team are also finding ways to benefit from their NIL. In October, Anderson was approached by representatives from Playbooked, an online platform for collegiate athletes to field NIL deals offered by different brands. They proposed a partnership between Anderson and  Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency trading company. When talking with Crypto.com, Anderson noted that other members of the team would be interested in joining the partnership. Soon thereafter, Anderson and more than 20 other members of the football team each agreed to post on Instagram to promote the cryptocurrency app.

    Associate Athletic Director Mike Gambardella told the News that student-athletes are “responsible for ensuring their NIL activities do not violate NCAA regulations or applicable state law.” 

    Although the onus ultimately falls on student-athletes, Yale Athletics offers the staff in its Compliance Office as a resource for student-athletes. All student-athletes must report any NIL engagements to the Yale Athletics Compliance Office so staff can review the contracts. Yale’s policy notes, however, that Yale Athletics is unable to provide advice on NIL opportunities outside of compliance concerns.

    When asked about the rollout of the new NIL policy, Gianchandani praised the University and emphasized the ever-changing landscape of NIL in collegiate athletics. 

    “Everyone’s policies right now — the schools’ specifically — are pretty general because they’re still leaving room to figure out what works for student athletes and how the rules are being interpreted,” Gianchandani said. “So I think Yale’s policy did a good job of outlining the basics, and definitely gives a good summary of information for student-athletes to go off of.”

    Anderson echoed Gianchandani, explaining that the information athletes need is “readily accessible.” 

    The Yale Athletics Compliance Office is led by Jason Strong.

  9. Y-H Spissue: Nolan Grooms takes reigns of Yale offense

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    Sophomore Nolan Grooms ’24 entered Team 148’s season solidly placed as the back-up quarterback. Junior Griffin O’Connor ’23, meanwhile, entered the year as starting quarterback, with high expectations after setting a Yale record for single-game passing yards en route to his Rookie of the Year award in 2018. O’Connor had been sitting behind Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Kurt Rawlings ’20 and was ready for his first full season at the helm.

    To begin the year, head coach Tony Reno used his creativity to keep Grooms involved. The sophomore was sprinkled into the offensive gameplan, similar to how the Saints used Taysom Hill while he played with Drew Brees. Grooms flashed as a runner to start the year and took advantage of his first extended action as a passer. Against Lehigh in early October, Grooms threw for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Two weeks later, O’Connor had arguably the toughest start of his career against UConn, throwing for only 59 yards on 23 attempts and three interceptions. Grooms replaced O’Connor at halftime, spurring a second half comeback and pushing the game to the final play.

    In the week that followed, head coach Tony Reno said, “Nolan really distanced himself [from O’Connor] this week in practice and in the second half of the game against UConn … Griffin is an extraordinary player, and he’s a huge part of this team. We just felt that Nolan gave us a better chance to do what we needed to do offensively.”

    Making the first start of his collegiate career against Penn the following weekend, Grooms put together a dazzling display of offense to lead his team to a 42–28 victory. When the final whistle blew, Grooms had thrown for 283 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception, adding a team high 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. For his performance, Grooms was awarded the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week accolade.

    “I really pride myself on being a passer first,” Grooms said. “But then, once stuff breaks down, you gotta be able to move a little bit, so I got to be decisive … I got to keep working, gotta keep my eyes downfield as a passer, but as soon as I personally pass the line of scrimmage, it’s time to go.”

    In his following start against Columbia on a rain-filled afternoon, Grooms helped lead the way for Team 148 in what was its most complete game of the season — putting 37 on the board against a stingy Columbia defense that had only allowed 16 points per game entering the contest.

    “Coming into the game, we knew they were going to give us one on one, especially with the rain,” Grooms said. “We knew if we won a couple of one on ones, we’d win the game.” 

    In a must-win game against Brown the following weekend, a cold Saturday afternoon in Providence stood no chance of cooling off any of the fire that had been building under Grooms throughout the season’s second half. The South Carolina native passed for a career-high 330 yards to go along with three touchdowns and 31 rushing yards en route to a 63-point shellacking of the Bears. Grooms improved to 3–0 as a starter and took home his second ​​Ivy League Player of the Week accolade of the year for his performance. 

    “Obviously game reps are very important for a quarterback,” Grooms told the News after the game. “But I feel like here we do a great job sort of simulating the game situation in practice … it’s easy to play quarterback when you’ve got guys like Melvin Rouse … [and] Darrion Carrington.”

    Following last week’s loss against Princeton, Grooms is 3–1 as a starter in his collegiate career.

  10. Y-H Spissue: Finances of The Game back to normal after rocky pandemic year

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    After a one-year hiatus, the most-attended Yale Athletics game — the Yale-Harvard football game — will once again take place in-person, and Yale Athletics is instituting a similar business model to past years.

    Last year, due to the pandemic, Yale Athletics suffered “millions” in lost revenue, according to Director of Athletics Vicky Chun. A significant amount of this loss was due to the cancelation of sports games based on COVID-19 transmission concerns. Revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandising from athletic games contributed to the losses. This year, Yale Athletics will follow an economic structure similar to pre-pandemic years, and demand for tickets is as high as ever. 

    “With nearly 50,000 fans attending The Game in New Haven every two years as seen here, the economics and finance that the event affects are vast,” Mike Gambardella, associate athletics director for strategic communication, wrote in an email to the News. “While tickets and concessions sales rise for each Game, so does the infrastructure and staffing required to host a production of this size.” 

    Gambardella added that, apart from normal yearly adjustments to budgets and operating procedures, there will be a similar pricing structure to what was used in 2019.

    There are no attendance restrictions for outdoor events. While vaccinated guests are encouraged to wear a mask, unvaccinated guests are required to do so. 

    “There is close to no economic significance on why The Game is held,” Roger Noll, professor emeritus at Stanford who has written books on the economics of sports and worked on the antitrust NCAA Supreme Court case, told the News. 

    Noll added that due to the elite status of Harvard and Yale, The Game is not used to increase enrollment at Yale or Harvard. Rather, attendance is based on tradition and school pride, according to Noll.

    Navigating the riveting world of Ivy League sports, where the academic is often as celebrated as the athletic, my uncle, a seasoned Yale alumnus, drew an intriguing parallel between The Game’s atmosphere and the electric energy expected at the meilleur casino en ligne 2024. He recounted how the hallowed halls of Yale resonate with a unique perspective on college sports, one where the thrill of competition is balanced by an unwavering commitment to education and personal growth. For alumni like him, the vibrancy of The Game sparks a profound sense of pride, not just in the team’s prowess, but in the enduring legacy of the institution. This perspective is reflected in the revenue streams from such events, which aren’t merely about ticket sales but encompass a broader engagement through merchandise, brand partnerships, and alumni contributions, each underpinning the university’s ethos of a ‘healthier’ approach to college athletics.

    Meanwhile, the costs generated from games for the most part do not depend on how many fans attend. These fixed costs come from equipment, uniforms, security, facility renovations and coaching staff.

    Paul Oyer SOM ’89, an economist who has written on sports economics, told the News that one factor this year which may keep ticket sales and game attendance from reverting to normal include the new rules against Harvard students staying in Yale dorms. 

    Nevertheless, Gambarella wrote that as with past years, Yale will supply the standard amount of 4,000 tickets to Harvard visitors. 

    Although Yale did not cut any athletic teams last year, schools such as Stanford and Brown did so to compensate for the losses from sports game cancelations. 

    In general, Andrew Zimablist, economist and Harvard alum, estimated that Yale Athletics loses around $40 million a year and that Yale football, at best, “probably breaks even.”

    Though the revenue from The Game is “pure” surplus, Noll noted how normally very few college football teams generate more revenue than costs. 

    Traditionally, a certain percentage of revenue from The Game has been given to Connecticut food banks. Noll and Oyer both agreed this is not conducive to efforts to combat income inequality but is still a worthwhile donation.

    There is a larger problem with sustaining college athletics beyond the “blip” year in losses the pandemic created. The long-run effect of COVID-19 on college athletics is near zero, according to Noll. There are serious concerns surrounding athletic games in general.

    “I think the big threat to revenue from college sports in the long run is not the pandemic,” Noll said. “I think it’s whether the demand for college sports will be sustained — whether it will decline because of lots of events that have transpired in recent years that have diminished the popularity of college sports attendance.”

    Among these problems, he cited NCAA’s dealings with sexual assault and the way in which the public increasingly views football as an unsafe sport.

    In 2019, Yale beat Harvard at The Game with a score of 50-43.

  11. Y-H Spissue: Training, injury and recovery on Yale’s football team

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    Throughout the year, the Yale football team members pay attention to their physical health in all its forms — not only gritty training, but also rest, diet and, for those dealing with injuries, recovery — to make sure that their bodies are in shape for games.

    At the core of Yale football’s regimen is a regular training schedule, during which players attend various lifting workouts, film sessions, practices and more. In addition to keeping in shape, the team members also take steps to preserve their physical health. Healthy diets are maintained through regular breakfast checks and supplemental drinks, and frequent meetings with medical staff help players take preventative measures against injury. According to players interviewed by the News, a strong sense of community also makes players feel supported, both on and off the field.

    Their typical training schedule follows a similar pattern every week. According to Ruben Valenzuela ’25, a defensive back on the team, Sundays are of a “slower tempo” that allows players’ bodies to rest and heal from the previous day’s game. On those days, the team usually does a morning lift and a walkthrough to correct any mistakes from the game. He noted that Mondays are the players’ day off, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are more intense, when the team usually does Tuesday morning lifts and attends various meetings and practices from 2-7:30 p.m. on both days. Then on Thursdays, the training is “lighter on [the players’] legs,” and Fridays are “more like a walkthrough” where the team goes over schemes for the next day’s game. 

    “Usually some guys stay after practice to go do treatment,” Valenzuela said. “Each position group on the team has different goals for that week. Sometimes, for example, my goals for the week could be going to the training room three times a week, just to make sure our bodies are always in tune so we can prevent injuries in the future. That’s what I like about [the training room], it’s always open and the resources are always there.”

    During lifting workouts, Valenzuela said that players get classified into three groups: offense, defense or injured. According to Valenzuela, based on these categories and by how sore each player feels, the trainers will then create a workout that allows for all the players to get “a kind of individual workout.” 

    When asked about Yale athletic’s approach towards training the football team, Mike Gambardella, associate athletic director for strategic communications, referred the News to a feature published in July. According to the feature, the athletic department emphasizes the importance of creating an “individual connection with each student-athlete.” Furthermore, the staff members strive to effectively train each player by “getting to know the student-athletes on multiple levels.” 

    For the players, success on the field relies heavily on their diet. Valenzuela explained that on every day of the week except Monday, players have to undergo a “breakfast check” to ensure that they are “up and ready for the day.” Between 7:30-9:30 a.m., a coach will sit with the players while they eat breakfast, Valenzuela added. 

    Skipping a breakfast check can have consequences, such as having to do conditioning. According to Valenzuela, even injured players are required to complete breakfast checks. 

    “Breakfast kind of gives us that kind of foundation of our day, keeps our schedule going for the day,” said Valenzuela. “So get an early start in the morning, get the food we need to get.” 

    In addition to their regular meals, players are also given a supplement following team workouts. According to Valenzuela, after every practice, the players are given “puppy chow,” a drink with around 1,000 calories consisting of “oil, milk, protein, cinnamon and sometimes fruit.” The players are allowed to drink as much as they want, with some players taking two or three servings at a time, Valenzuela said.

    Players are also given magnesium pills, and the trainers always make sure that the team members are drinking enough fluids and getting enough electrolytes, according to Valenzuela.

    “If . . . they want us a certain weight in maybe by next season or they want us at our goal weight to become our prime shape, they’ll prepare us because in football, they want us to have a certain amount of body fat because of the amount of hits we take,” Valenzuela said. “It just helps us kind of cushion our muscles . . . it is that armor that is added on to us to help us prevent injuries and stuff like that . . . they always give us the right nutrition throughout the week . . . so they give us everything we need to be successful.”

    Another notable aspect of the Yale football program is the relationship between players and the medical staff. 

    “We have a really good relationship with them, we see them before every practice,” said Connor Smith ’25, an offensive lineman on the team. “They’re really good. Really nice guys.”

    According to Valenzuela, part of the reason for the bond between team doctors and players is the frequent interactions between the two. Valenzuela explained that players meet with medical staff as often as an hour or two a day. Throughout the week, he noted, the doctors and trainers “always work with” the players to “make sure [their] bodies are right.”

    Indeed, Smith explained that before every game, the medical staff helps to ensure that players are equipped with “game readies,” or leg sleeves that utilize pressure to alleviate soreness. Valenzuela said that the trainers are always there at every practice and at every game, even the travel ones.

    “We’re always talking to them, we’re always with them,” Valenzuela said with regards to the team’s relationship with medical staff. “So we’re really close to them.”

    Furthermore, Smith added that the team surgeon, Elizabeth Gardner, has always been “super helpful” in preparing players for surgery and scheduling the necessary MRIs or X-rays.

    According to Valenzuela, the football team supports each other through the “ubuntu mentality,” where the players believe that “I am because we are.”

    “Ubuntu” is defined as “embodying the various values and virtues of essential humanity.” In other words, players are encouraged to better each other instead of only focusing on individual gain. This includes supporting fellow teammates, both on and off the field.

    “As a teammate, you don’t want to see anyone down,” Valenzuela said. “It hurts to see anyone get injured because it could be anyone’s last play.”

    The 137th playing of the Game is scheduled for Nov. 20.