A double team, a read-option, a designed rollout. On its first three plays of the game, the Holy Cross football team did everything it could to keep the ball away from Harvard junior defensive end Zach Hodges on Oct. 5.
It didn’t work.
The 6’3”, 235-pound force finished the game, a 41-35 Crimson victory, with five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He even recorded a pass breakup. The Crusaders did all they could to run away from Hodges, but they just couldn’t hide.
Hodges made his impact early on this season, starting with a fumble return for a touchdown in a 42-20 win over San Diego to start the year.
“We knew it was going to be a fight,” Hodges said after the game. “We like a fight.”
The Harvard football team might be the only party that enjoys being in a fight involving Hodges.
Hodges’ five-game sack streak was snapped against Princeton, as Ivy League teams who had learned their lesson in past years paid even closer attention to the pass rusher. Even though Hodges was kept relatively quiet over the final five games, the conference’s coaches still rewarded him with Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year honors in December.
“To even be mentioned is all I came here expecting,” Hodges said after the presentation.
Incoming Crimson captain Norman Hayes added that Hodges was never frustrated by the lengths that offenses went to in order to keep him away from the action.
“I don’t think he has any...trouble with the double teams and the schemes against him,” Hayes said.
Hodges helped the Harvard defense hold opponents to an Ivy-low 97 rushing yards per game. The Crimson also led the league in both forced fumbles and interceptions, thanks in large part to Hodges’ relentless pressure, on its way to reclaiming a share of the Ancient Eight title.
The threat of Hodges on the outside also made things a little easier for senior defensive tackle Nnamdi Obukwelu, who tallied 4.5 sacks on the year, second to Hodges’ 6.5. Obukwelu is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, and in his absence Hodges will likely be given even more attention by opponents in 2014.
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at email@example.com.