The Game 2016
Almost every November since 1875, the Harvard and Yale football teams have faced off in an epic rivalry as old as college sports itself. Use the links below to browse the News’ coverage.
Welcome to the 133rd rendition of The Game.
The streak is over.
A 2–7 Yale football team limped into Harvard Stadium on Saturday to face a Crimson squad that needed one win in order to lock up its fourth consecutive Ivy League title. But after 60 minutes of play, it was Yale that ended up celebrating on the field, a 21–14 victory in hand, while Harvard fans and players filed out of their stadium, shocked.
From close battles to blowouts, the Yale football team has underperformed in 2016. But there remains one last chance to salvage the season: the Bulldogs will travel to Cambridge on Saturday for the Harvard-Yale football game, with a shot at preventing archrival Harvard from obtaining its fourth-straight Ivy League title.
The Yale football team (2–7, 2–4 Ivy) has one of its toughest tasks of the season ahead as it faces off against Harvard (7–2, 5–1) in Cambridge. In The Game last season, Harvard secured a 19-point victory thanks to 119 yards and three scores from then-freshman receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley. Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 threw for 410 yards, with 169 of those going to Christopher Williams-Lopez ’18, though his offense put up just 19 points. For the Bulldogs to break their losing streak against the Crimson, they will have to capitalize on Harvard’s mistakes, pass the ball effectively and stop the opposition’s ground attack.
While the Elis are no longer in contention for the Ivy League title, they do have the chance to deny the Crimson a share of the conference championship. With Harvard, Princeton and Penn all currently tied at the top of the league, it seems likely that the title will once again be shared between at least two teams. All three teams need to beat their respective opponents to lay claim to a share of the title. According to the Elo model, there is above a 50 percent chance that all three teams share the title.
In the long history of this rivalry, Harvard has typically been the team to pull off the upset. Of those 13 wins by the unfavored opponent, the Crimson owns 10 of them, with only two coming in the past 16 years. The last time the Bulldogs won as the underdogs in The Game was in 1993, a year in which Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was the highest grossing film, Bill Clinton LAW ’73 presided over the Oval Office and a gallon of gas cost $1.16.
Unless Yale is able to defeat Harvard this Saturday, the win in 1993 will remain one of only three victories for unfavored Bulldog teams since 1970, joining those of the 1973 and 1985 campaigns. That is the same number of times that, in the same period, the Crimson has upstaged an Eli team that entered The Game undefeated. Harvard delivered the Bulldogs’ only loss in 1974, 1979 and 2007, leaving 1960 as the last year in which Yale was perfect for an entire season.
See how Yale compared to Harvard in the other fall season matchups this year.
Comparing Yale and Harvard football teams, unit by unit.
On Jan. 12, 2012, Tony Reno stood up in front of a press conference hosted at the Yale Bowl and was introduced as the 34th head coach of Yale football. A former assistant at both Harvard and Yale, Reno promised he was the right man to do what his predecessor, Tom Williams, had not: win an Ivy League title and beat Harvard in The Game. Nearly five years later, Reno has amassed a 23–26 record, and though he has provided Yale football fans with some memorable moments, none of his wins have come against Harvard.
Maybe this year’s Yale squad is not the team to finally top the Crimson. Maybe Saturday will be another uncomfortable, rainy day, but this time in Cambridge with the Elis stumbling on the turf of Harvard Stadium. Maybe the Bulldogs’ detestable losing streak will live another year.
But what will happen if Yale wins?
My mother worked hard to get me into school. My brother and sister worked hard to set a good example for me. They suffered so that I may learn and better myself. Football was always an outlet for me where everything just seemed decent. I had little to no worries on the field because it was more peaceful than my home life. I had great teammates who were like family to me.
Yale football gave me an opportunity to have one of the world’s best educations and also play competitive football. If it weren’t for Yale football tracking me down, I can’t say I would be where I am. However, I have never once thought that I didn’t deserve to be here.
I was a young African-American kid born and raised in a small beach city in Southern California. It was all that I knew and truly what I loved, but Yale football opened me up to much more than that.
I remember arriving on campus for the first time to start a strength program before freshman year. I met 29 strangers with whom I would go on this journey for the next four years. Although we were all different, we all held that same love and passion for a simple game that creates high morale and intense emotion that couldn’t be replicated by anything else.
Why is it that Yale and Harvard students alike look forward to The Game so much?
Maybe it’s the history and tradition of the rivalry. It could be the Friday night festivities and the Saturday morning tailgates. Maybe it’s the chance to yell and scream while surrounded by thousands of your peers, whether you’re the football fanatic or the friend asking what a first down is.
All of these answers are possible. But I’ll tell you what the students don’t care about: one stretch of nine years — out of 132 — in which Harvard happened to come out on top.
Nine. The number of innings in a baseball game. The number of quarterbacks the Cleveland Browns are projected to start next season. The number of girls that have rejected me this week. The second-highest number the Yalies can count to seeing as we only have 10 fingers and all — math is hard, huh? But most importantly, nine is the length in games of Harvard’s win streak against the Bulldogs.
Can we take a second to think about just how hard it is to lose nine games in a row? There comes a point when it seems like the Bulldogs are just trying to be bad. It’s like they’re doing it on purpose. Like in 2009, when Yale attempted a fake punt on fourth and 22 in the fourth quarter. They went on to lose, 14–10.