Heading into the last week of the Ivy League season, there was a chance that four teams could have earned a share of the league title.
Yale and Princeton were 5-1 in the Ivy League while Penn and Harvard were 4-2.
For the scenario to have a four-way split, Harvard had to beat Yale and Penn had to knock off Princeton.
Well, Penn did its part, scoring a comeback 20-19 win over Princeton.
Yet Yale wasn’t in a sharing mood. The Bulldogs ended up sole champions with a 19-14 win over Harvard.
Here were the final standings:
The fact that Yale earned the title in what is referred to as “The Game” against Harvard made it even more meaningful.
What makes the Ivy League so special is its long tradition. This was the 138th edition of Yale-Harvard, with the Bulldogs holding a 69-61-8 advantage. Yale continued its recent Ivy League dominance with its third title in the last five years. It was the Bulldogs’ 17th overall Ivy League championship, with the first coming in 1956.
Since Ivy League schools don’t participate in the FCS playoffs, winning a conference title becomes even more meaningful.
In the Ivy League, it is simply everything.
This was a hard-fought Ivy League championship. Three of Yale’s Ivy League wins were by five or fewer points. There was a 24-21 win over Dartmouth, and then the last two weeks, a 24-20 victory over Princeton and then the five-point win over Harvard.
Even Yale’s one Ivy League loss was close, a 20-13 defeat at Penn.
Then imagine, Yale rooting for Penn to beat Princeton on that final day. Penn trailed Princeton 19-7 entering the fourth quarter but then outscored the Tigers 13-0, capping it with an Aidan Sayin to Trey Flowers 5-yard touchdown pass with just five seconds left in the game. (Penn then missed the two-point conversion run).
This was the Ivy League at its best, with the schools that were so closely bunched together, playing in final-week showdowns. The fact that it was two such storied long-standing rivalries, made it even better.
Yale went 8-2 overall, with the other loss an opening 38-14 defeat to Holy Cross (11-0), the No. 8 seed in the FCS Tournament.
The Ivy League champs had an enviable combination of a productive offense and stingy defense.
The Bulldogs were first in the Ivy League in scoring offense, averaging 30.5 points per game. Yale was also second in the Ivy League in scoring defense, allowing 19.5 points per game. In winning its last four games, Yale allowed 16.75 points per contest. The Bulldogs, despite leading the Ivy League in scoring, weren’t explosive but more consistent. Their scoring average was skewed a bit by a 69-17 win over Brown, in which the Bulldogs led 52-3 at halftime.
Still, this was a productive offensive unit, one in which 13 different players scored at least one touchdown.
A strong running game keyed Yale’s offense. The Bulldogs had the second and third-leading rushers in the Ivy League. Junior quarterback Nolan Grooms was second with 726 yards. He averaged 5.58 yards per carry and had six rushing touchdowns. Teammate Tre Peterson was third in rushing (724 yards, 6.6 avg. and six touchdowns).
Grooms was a true dual threat, throwing for 1,660 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Trailing 14-13 to Harvard, Grooms made the biggest pass of the season, a 5-yard scoring pass to Jackson Hawes with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter.
It also helped to have the leading field goal kicker in the Ivy League, Jack Bosman, who led the league with 13 field goals.
Defensively, this was a team that had many big-play performers. Junior Hamilton Moore shared the Ivy League lead with four interceptions.
Defensive lineman Clay Patterson was second in the Ivy League in sacks with 6.5 while fellow defensive lineman Reid Nickerson was tied for third with 6.0.
Yale became the lone outright Ivy League champion for the first time since Princeton in 2018 and the manner in which the Bulldogs earned the title-clinching it in the final quarter of the final game of the season – will stand out as much as the title itself.