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Harvard's Zach Hodges named Ivy's Defensive Player of the Year

Posted by Craig Larson, Globe Staff  December 9, 2013 03:39 PM

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On a Harvard defense that featured four first-team All-Ivy selections from a championship squad, Zach Hodges was more destructive than any other, drawing double and triple teams from opposing fronts all season.

He was the focus of every game plan, keeping coaches/coordinators across the league up late reviewing another clip of game film, their weary eyes homed in on No. 99.

Before his Princeton squad held off host Harvard, 51-48, in triple overtime, Princeton coach Bob Surace said the 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound junior end from Atlanta “disrupts the game more than anyone else I have seen in my four years here — bats down passes, interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, stops the run.”

On Monday, Hodges was presented the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, edging out Princeton tackle Caruan Reid.

Bushnell Cups are awarded to the league’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly won the offensive honors.

“I’m honored to have been chosen and recognized for this prestigious award and honor in our league,” said Hodges, the ninth Crimson player to receive a Cup, and fourth in as many seasons, following tailback Gino Gordon, defensive tackle Josue Ortiz, and quarterback Colton Chapple.

Epperly (a league-record 43 total touchdowns) earned the offensive nod over Brown tailback John Spooney.

Hodges already ranks fifth in school history with 18.5 sacks and is only two behind the all-time program leader (Chris Smith ’98, with 20.5). A two-time All-Ivy choice, Hodges ranked fifth in the country with four forced fumbles. Name a first-team All-American by College Sports Madness Monday, he also recovered three fumbles, including one for a 53-yard touchdown return at San Diego Sept. 21.

“To win a championship at any level, you need great players and more importantly great people,” said coach Tim Murphy, who guided the Crimson (9-1, 6-1) to their 15th Ivy League crown, sharing it with Princeton. “And Zach Hodges among so many great kids was our most valuable player.”

Hodges, who helped the Crimson boast the nation’s seventh-best rush defense (97.3 yards allowed per game), tied for the Ivy League lead with 6.5 sacks and was second with 11.5 tackles for a loss. He finished the year with 40 tackles, as he emerged as one of the better pass rushers in the nation.

Teammate Nnamdi Obukwelu, a 6-3, 265-pound senior defensive tackle out of Brockton via BC High, received the 75th annual George “Bulger” Lowe Award from the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, as the best defensive player in New England. He will be honored at the Bob Whelan College Football Awards Night Jan. 9 at the Waltham Westin.

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