Here at The Back Page, we have asserted before that with a little help from our friend degrees of separation, we can prove that Harvard actually should be the one playing in the national championship game Monday. In advance of the Oregon-Ohio State matchup, we’ve taken the courtesy of proving once again that, no matter who wins, undefeated Harvard is the real college football champion.
This week, many Harvard alumni continued their professional sports seasons on the ice, on the court, and on the field. Meanwhile, one alum’s season came to an unfortunate close.
In the second quarter of an NFL game between Houston and Indianapolis last weekend, Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 suffered a fractured leg while attempting to scramble. Fitzpatrick had been enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, posting 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions through 12 games. Houston is currently 8-7.
In the four years Zack Hodges donned the No. 99 jersey, the Harvard football team lost just four games. The senior defensive end has ended his collegiate career on a similarly high note, earning a Co-Ivy Defensive Player of the Year honor due to his high level of performance throughout the Crimson’s undefeated 2014 season.
This year marks the second straight season Hodges captured the Bushnell Cup, awarded to the Ancient Eight’s most dominant player on either side of the ball.
The senior’s consistent play also earned him multiple awards outside of this Ivy honor, which was conferred in a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y. Hodges has accepted an offer to compete in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game. In addition, he was selected for multiple preseason lists and All-America teams, including the FCS North All-American First Team.
To the victors belong the spoils.
In the aftermath of a last-minute win over Yale in the 131st playing of the Game, several Crimson players earned more than the emotional satisfaction of a thrilling finish—they also racked up personal honors.
As usual, senior defensive end Zach Hodges led the pack. For the second season in a row, he was named a finalist for Ivy League Football Player of the Year. Hodges, who has the most sacks in Harvard history, won the prize in 2013. If he duplicates the feat, he will be the first Ancient Eight player to receive the title two times in a row since Crimson wide receiver Carl Morris in 2001 and 2002.
The Gridiron Club of Greater Boston went a step further in naming Hodges the recipient of the George “Bulger” Lowe Award. Nicknamed “New England’s Heisman Trophy,” the prize goes to the top defensive player in the region.
Hodges’s continued to rack up prizes on a national scale. Earlier this week, he accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game, which will take place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The next day, the team announced that Hodges had also earned a spot on the College Sports Madness All-America team.
On the season, the defensive back topped the Ivy League with 8.5 sacks and placed third with 10 tackles for a loss. His largest play of the year came in the dying seconds of the matchup against the Bulldogs, when Hodges dragged down Yale quarterback Morgan Roberts. Harvard intercepted the ball on the next play.
Predictably, Hodges was a unanimous All-Ivy first team selection. Seventeen teammates joined him on one of the all-conference squads. Junior defensive back Sean Ahern, senior offensive lineman Nick Easton, senior tight end Tyler Hamblin, senior defensive back Norman Hayes, senior defensive tackle Obum Obukwelu, senior linebacker Connor Sheehan, junior running back Paul Stanton, Jr., and junior offensive lineman Cole Toner all got the first-team nod.
Although junior wide receiver Andrew Fischer made the second team, he earned Ancient Eight co-Offensive Player of the Week after racking up 264 total yards and two touchdowns against Yale. In addition, he garnered a New England Football Writers’ Association Gold Helmet. Sheehan won Defensive Player of the Week thanks to a performance that included a 90-yard pick-six at the end of the third quarter.
Players were not the only Harvard affiliates to receive personal prizes. After his third undefeated season with the Crimson, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy was tapped as the inaugural Ivy League Coach of the Year.
Six touchdowns. No interceptions. 358 yards passing.
It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 had a pretty good game last Sunday. But in case Fitzpatrick—a former captain and standout for the Crimson—needs the confirmation of a numbers whiz, he can always turn to his younger son Brady.
At the end of the press conference following the Texans’ 45-21 win over the Tennessee Titans, Fitzpatrick introduced Brady, described by the New York Post as an “adorable human calculator.” Fitzpatrick the elder asked the crowd for two numbers between 90 and 99. When a reporter suggested 93 and 97, it took Brady only a few seconds of wide-eyed staring before he multiplied the numbers together to get 9,021.
The answer of over 9,000 might as well have described Fitzpatrick’s quarterback rating on the day. By tossing six touchdowns, Fitzpatrick not only set a franchise record, but he also recorded more passing scores than he had combined for over his previous nine games of action.
In the first week of November, a loss against the Eagles had led Houston to bench Fitzpatrick in favor of Ryan Mallett. But two games later, a chest injury ended Mallett’s season and landed Fitzpatrick back in the starter’s seat.
Against the Titans, Fitzpatrick showed no rust. He connected on 24 of 33 pass attempts, and his 10.85 yards per pass exceeded his season total by more than 2.5 yards. DeAndre Hopkins was the most frequent beneficiary of Fitzpatrick’s breakout, as the second-year wide receiver finished with 238 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
Fitzpatrick’s accomplishment loses a little luster given the fact that Tennessee boasts the league’s worst scoring defense. Last week, the Titans conceded 27 first-half points en route to a 43-24 drubbing by the Eagles. However, hope is on the horizon for Tennessee in the form of Eli Manning, who accounted for 70 passing yards and two lost fumbles in the second half of a loss to the Jaguars.
For many NFL players, a franchise-record performance might stand as a career highlight. But the picture is more complicated for Fitzpatrick, who participated in two undefeated seasons at Harvard. As a senior, Fitzpatrick won Ivy League Player of the Year after posting a 128.9 passer rating on the year. The season included a 21-point comeback against Brown to preserve perfection and, predictably, a 35-3 beat-down of Yale.