Sporting Life

A football season to cheer

A second straight win in The Game secures an Ivy title.

Evan Frondorf ’14 will be a production assistant for NBC at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Joe Wolenski

Joe Wolenski

Celebrating with the Ivy trophy after The Game (left to right): President Peter Salovey ’86PhD, head coach Tony Reno, captain Spencer Rymiszewski ’18. View full image

As the seconds ticked down in the final quarter of the 134th edition of The Game, the win was already well in hand. Yale would take its second straight victory over Harvard, this time by a score of 24–3, in a game marked by little drama but quite a bit of joy.

Considering that Yale hadn’t won The Game at the Yale Bowl since 1999, the atmosphere on a drizzly November afternoon was downright muted. In an orderly fashion, fans lined up in the aisles and waited to take to the field for a reasonable, respectful celebration, embodying the old football adage about acting “like you’ve been there before” after a win.

The workmanlike Game was emblematic of a season in which the Bulldogs lost only once, tallying a 9–1 record and securing an outright Ivy League title. Yale won its first three games by an average of 28 points before a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of the Dartmouth game. Perhaps the most significant game was in late October, when the Bulldogs faced an undefeated, league-leading Columbia team: Yale’s impressive 23–6 win put them on track to secure the Ivy title.

The championship was Yale’s first since 2006, when it shared with Brown, and its first outright title since 1980. Consecutive Yale wins in The Game hadn’t happened since 1999 and 2000. But at Yale today, the sophomore class knows nothing of the previous decade’s pain. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was ITO—Ivy Takeover,” said sixth-year head coach Tony Reno after the game. “And they did it.”

After a field goal capped the opening Crimson drive, Harvard never scored again in the game. Yale’s top-notch defense, led by captain Spencer Rymiszewski ’18 and Foyesade Oluokun ’18, held Harvard to just 164 total yards and 26 yards on the ground.

For Rymiszewski, it was a storybook ending to an up-and-down career. “It’s been a long, long ride,” said the captain, who missed all of 2016 and much of 2014 due to injury. “But I definitely wouldn’t change a day—I wouldn’t change a moment of it.” Reno had tremendous praise for the senior. “Spencer put himself 106th every day on this team,” Reno said. “He’s been such an inclusive leader.”

Yale’s defense also had six sacks and forced four turnovers, including a fumble late in the second quarter picked up by Malcolm Dixon ’20 and carried back 19 yards for a touchdown. “I saw [Harvard quarterback Jake Smith] slip, I saw the end zone, I saw the ball, I put two and two together, and that was it,” joked Dixon. That defensive score broke The Game open, as the half ended with Yale up 17–3.

The only scoring in a slow second half was a Yale fourth-quarter drive that ended with a rushing touchdown by Zane Dudek ’21, who led the league in rushing and was named unanimous Ivy Rookie of the Year. While neither offense shined, quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 was a solid leader who protected the ball and was picked just once.

The season was a journey no one wanted to end—a “heck of a ride,” Reno said. “Today was going to be a letdown for me, because I don’t get the chance to coach this team again,” he said. “I’ve never had this much fun coaching.” And thousands of Yale fans and alumni have never had more fun watching.

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