College football has not begun until the Ancient Eight join the party. Already in Week One, the league was full of surprises and storylines, so let’s talk about it!
League Favorites Start Sluggish
Ivy League play kicked off on Friday with Harvard hosting fellow Bay State school, Merrimack and it may have been the biggest surprise of the weekend. Despite coming in as 28.5-point favorites, the Crimson fell behind 21-7 and needed overtime to stave off the plucky Warriors by a score of 28-21.
To put it simply, Harvard looked like a team playing its first game against a team that already had two games under its belt. It’s too early to be concerned for the Crimson and they did have their bright spots like Aidan Borguet, who ran for 127 yards, and the Rush defense which allowed -26 yards on the ground.
The next day, Princeton had struggles of their own in the Sunshine State as they fell behind Stetson 14-7, before scoring 32 unanswered to beat the upstart Hatters 39-14. Blake Stenstrom looked smooth, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns, as the Tigers began their fourth straight year with a new quarterback.
Yale’s 38-14 loss may have been a bigger indication of Holy Cross’ prowess than the Bulldogs’ ineptitude. The Bulldogs suffered their worst loss in their 35 meetings with the Crusaders and their first loss by more than 10 points since 1967. The defense looked overmatched allowing 571 yards and Nolan Grooms did not look like himself, throwing for 98 yards and two interceptions. The Elis’ next game against Cornell should be a huge measuring stick game for both teams.
The Big Red Get a Big Signature Win
Arguably, the most surprising result in not only the conference but all of the FCS weekend was Cornell’s road win against VMI. The Big Red won the Ivy League’s first game against a SoCon school since the FDR administration (1939) and the Ancient Eight’s first road win against the SoCon.
The Big Red’s rush defense looked elite against the Keydets allowing -2 rushing yards as they jumped out to a 28-2 lead. Cornell took a page out of Dartmouth’s book with a two-QB system of their own. Luke Duby threw for 65 yards while Jameson Wang ran for 33 yards and threw for 2 TDs on his 10 attempts.
The offense must do more than the 266 yards if they want to upset Yale this week at home, however.
No Dante Miller, No Problem For Columbia
Columbia’s offense looked crisp in Poughkeepsie as the Lions jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead before coasting to a 38-3 win over Marist.
Joe Green went 15/21 for 144 yards with two touchdowns in 2.5 quarters of play and Joey Georgi made Lions fans forget about 883-yard rusher, Dante Miller with a 103-yard performance in the opener. The running game continues to be the backbone of this offense, but Joe Green’s consistency will be a key this year. Columbia should be favored against Georgetown but does have to travel to the Nation’s Capital for the Lou Little Cup.
Rounding Out the Ancient Eight
Dartmouth looked the best out of the league’s favorites as their run game eclipsed 300 yards. Nick Howard had a solid passing performance completing eight of his 10 passes, but questions still surround the Dartmouth passing game after Derek Kyler’s departure.
Brown’s offense is still explosive despite losing 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl MVP, EJ Perry as Jake Willcox threw for 356 yards in a 44-38 2OT thriller against Bryant. Brown looks to upset Harvard after the Crimson’s disappointing showing this Saturday.
Penn’s defense looked stellar in a quality 25-14 win over Colgate at Franklin Field. The Quakers held Colgate to 192 yards of offense a week after the Raiders upset Maine. The Quakers look to build on the great defensive showing against another Patriot League foe, Lafayette.