The Game 2017
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 134th rendition of The Game.
For the second straight year, the Yale football team’s season ended with a sea of blue storming the field. But the 134th playing of The Game was still unlike any in recent memory for the Bulldogs. With an emphatic 24–3 victory over Harvard, Yale secured its first outright Ivy League in 37 years.
Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 remembers it well. Last season’s dramatic 21–14 upset of Harvard snapped a nine-year losing streak to Yale’s centuries-old archrival, an eternity for a storied football program. But rather than pure euphoria, ecstasy or elation, the sophomore signal-caller recalled a sense of ambivalence.
With at least a share of the Ivy League championship guaranteed, the Yale football team will turn its attention to reaching two more milestones with a victory over Harvard in the 134th edition of The Game. The Bulldogs (8–1, 5–1 Ivy) will look to defeat the Crimson (5–4, 3–3) in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2000 and earn Yale’s first outright conference title since 1980. But for Team 145 to finish its 2017 campaign on a high note, the Elis will need to rely on their powerful run game, contain Justice Shelton-Mosley and be wary of trick plays.
For the first time in many years, the Yale football team will take the field for the Harvard-Yale game not only as the favorite, but also as Ivy League champions. The Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group Football Model currently predicts Yale as an 11-point favorite over Harvard, corresponding to a 73 percent chance of winning The Game.
“Gentlemen, you are about to play football against Harvard. Never again may you do something so important.” The 1923 Bulldogs took head coach Tad Jones’ pre-game speech to heart, blanking Harvard 13–0 to cap off an undefeated season, in the most anticipated athletic event of the year, the mecca of the sport the two schools had nurtured from infancy.
The Harvard-Yale rivalry stretches back beyond the first time the two schools met on the gridiron, to an 1852 crew race, the first intercollegiate athletic competition. One hundred sixty five years later, the two schools maintain the pre-eminent rivalry in collegiate athletics. In that span, both Yale and Harvard have played a crucial role in founding and developing college athletics. Yale takes the credit for the first collegiate rowing club, the four-point crouch for sprinters, the first cheerleaders, starting college hockey and the first 5-on-5 basketball game. Harvard receives plaudits for introducing masks for fencers and baseball catchers, winning the first modern Olympic gold medal, starting field hockey in America and playing the first college soccer game. However, despite all that varied athletic history, the annual football game has attained a special place in arbitrating the fierce rivalry between the schools.
Just one game into his college football career, running back Zane Dudek ’21 found himself making headlines with his trademark blend of elusive and electric running. In his Yale debut against Lehigh, the halfback breached the goal line twice on just a measly nine carries, but that was all he needed to amass a whopping 131 yards on the ground.
See how Yale compared to Harvard in the other fall season matchups this year.
Comparing Yale and Harvard football teams, unit by unit.
In the wake of Yale’s 35–31 win over Princeton, head coach Tony Reno credited the team’s desire to play to its standards as the impetus behind the comeback victory, considering the Bulldogs once trailed 24–7.
It’s the reason why he gave his team a C-grade following its 56–28 thrashing of Lehigh. It’s the reason why running back Deshawn Salter ’18 answered a 57-yard Cornell touchdown with an 82-yard scoring scamper of his own one play later. It’s the reason why he sees playing Brown (2–7, 0–6 Ivy) as equally important to a date with Dartmouth (7–2, 4–2). But most importantly, it’s the reason why the Elis are on the cusp of winning their first outright Ivy League championship since 1980 when they host Harvard this Saturday.
First of all — and I feel silly writing this in the first place, because I think most of you know it already — allow me to dispel the notion that tomorrow’s game does not matter.
Committing to play Yale football was the best decision I have ever made. When I walked on campus for summer workouts, I was a lost freshman who was still trying to find his way. I didn’t know I was about to embark on a life-changing journey and meet people who would affect my life forever.
After 13 years, my journey with football is coming to an end. Nov 18th is my last stop. I’ve been playing this game for more than 60 percent of my life, and I can genuinely say there aren’t many things I know better than football. Football is a part of who I am and has been a part of my daily ritual for most days these past 13 years. Whether it be practice, film, working out, rehab or watching the NFL on Sunday, football is a sport of true passion and dedication.
While preparing for the Sports Desk’s Yale-Harvard piece, I did what any scholarly columnist ought to do: scoured the web for disparaging Harvard news with which to fill my column. And because every headline was negative, I discovered and prepared to deploy news of the Harvard Institute of Politics granting boy-wiz Sean Spicer a fellowship in the same year that it granted Chelsea Manning one — before buckling under pressure and revoking the latter’s. I read up on how, once again, Harvard’s endowment growth was a lot like the Roman Empire’s: quite impressive before it wasn’t. I was all set to make snide remarks about how Harvard will win a whopping zero fall Ivy League championships.
It took 10 years for Yale to beat Harvard once. A single time. Winning can be hard, apparently, but beating the Crimson took the Bulldogs longer than it took the U.S. to build the first continental railroad or Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the United Arab Emirates to finish the construction of the Burj Khalifa.