Nov. 3, 2009
By Marc Daniels
Every time he got knocked down, he got back up. Every time he got battered, he got back up. Every time he got shoved to the ground, he got back up. And by the time the clock ran out, Brett Hodges had a night he'll remember because he will feel it for days to come.
UCF's game with Marshall is what a rivalry conference game is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be two teams hitting hard and knocking each other around. If you missed it, ask Hodges and he can tell you how physical it was.
But despite getting hit time and time again, especially in the second half, Hodges made play after play and didn't stop until his team won a huge game to keep the Knights in the division race and move a step closer to being bowl eligible.
All was not easy for the fifth-year quarterback. Hodges missed on his first six passes before hitting tight end Adam Nissley for a gain of 27. But the special night began to come together when George O'Leary opted to go on fourth down trailing 7-0 midway through the second quarter at the Marshall four-yard line. Hodges hit Kamar Aiken and tied the game on a key play.
In the second half, Marshall decided to bring the heat. The Thundering Herd pressured Hodges all half and got to him time after time after time. Hodges often struggled to get back to his feet after getting smashed by defensive ends, linebackers, corners, safeties, the Marshall mascot (joking here, but it seemed like it) and anyone else they could send.
Despite the heat, Hodges stayed poised and it seemed to inspire his teammates. Down 20-7 in the fourth quarter, Hodges hit H-Back Ricky Kay on a 16-yard play before finding Rocky Ross for 21 to set up Brynn Harvey's score to make it 20-14 with 7:51 to play.
When the Knights turned the ball over on downs with 2:40 to play things looked bleak until the most under-appreciated defensive player in the country, outside of the UCF family, Bruce Miller
, stripped the ball from Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson and gave UCF life.
Hodges needed to dive for a yard on fourth and one to keep the game alive. Facing third and 10 at the Marshall 20, Hodges dropped back and felt pressure from all sides, but stayed in the pocket long enough to hit Kamar Aiken at the one.
When Hodges lined up on first and goal, he saw Rocky Ross all alone. No one to defend him. A winning play to be had. After getting hit all night and seeing opportunities to save a season before him, Hodges floated a perfect toss to Ross and finally the UCF signal caller was able to take a deep breath. By then the ribs felt sore and the body felt like a heavyweight fighter after going the distance.
On this night, Brett Hodges got to feel what he has sought for five years of his college career. To be the leader of an offense who kept battling and battling to the point his teammates would not let him lose.
The stat sheet is impressive as Hodges threw 342 and two touchdowns, but he also scored when it came to toughness, leadership and a will to win. Oh, by the way, second ranked Texas is next.
Marc Daniels' From the Press Box runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.