Getting back to the practice field usually helps deal effectively with bitter defeats, and Drew Hodgdon said that this held true in Tuesday's practice. "It felt great to come out and hit each other again," he said. "Today was a solid practice. It reminded ourselves that we have a new game plan and a new team to prepare for. It helped us to put last weekend behind us. We got back to the fundamentals that made us 5-1, something I think we neglected a little bit prior to the USC game."
The senior downplayed the notion that the physical preparation needs to yield way this week to more of a mental one. "I think more than anything we want to get back to our fundamentals from the beginning of the year," Hodgdon explained. "That's what we're focusing on right now. We're excited to come back out and hit the grindstone."
On the same token, this leader on offense didn't expect to exhibit more than usual leadership traits this week. "We don't have to do anything different," he claimed. "It wasn't a lack of preparedness that got us to 5-1. So we're gonna keep on doing what we've been doing, learn from the mistakes we made Saturday, and go back to what we do best and that's playing Sun Devil style football."
Speaking of style and scheme, an interesting dilemma awaits the ASU offense this week. It's no secret that the Devils' strengths lay with the passing game. However, the Bruins' weaknesses on defense clearly pertain to their inability to stop the run. Case in point, they are ranked dead last in the Pac-10 with 256 yards given up a game, which is 70 yards more than the team occupying the spot just ahead of them. The woes of ASU's running game will play a major role in the Sun Devils' success, or lack of, on offense. "It would be nice if we had the depth at running back that we had at the beginning of the year," Hodgdon admitted. "The offensive line has also sustain some injuries through out the year, so that has limited us in what we can do."
"But we're gonna approach the game plan this week like we do everything week, and that's do what our coaches tell us to do regardless of what it is," Hodgdon continued. "We're gonna do what any good offense would do and that's exploit the opponents' weaknesses on defense. We're gonna try to do a better job on the ground. We really haven't had a breakout game there. Running the ball is the key for any kind of offense, and we're trying to get back to that. You really can't wear a team down physically and out tough them if you don't run the ball, and that's what we'll try to do."
The USC game marked only the second game of the season where Hodgdon actually started. The senior missed the first three games with an injury sustained in the early stages of Camp Tontozona, and played sparingly in the fourth game of the year against Oregon State. Nevertheless, going into his last year in the maroon and gold, the center did expect this season to be a challenging one. "I've been relatively pleased with how I've been able to come back after missing all that practice time," he remarked. "I never had a chance to physically prepare for that season because of the injury. But that's how football is. You have to overcome adversity and injuries."
One aspect that has gone smooth for the Sun Devil center thus far is his studies. As a fifth year senior who already earned this past May his bachelor's in Interdisciplinary studies (Justice Studies and Sociology), Hodgdon is listed eligibility wise as a graduate student, and his lone class is a Geology lab. "That does help and it makes it easier with football," he said. "But the thing is that I find myself thinking is how much older I am than everybody in class (smile)."
Life after football is something else Hodgdon has spent some time pondering. As one of the better offensive linemen in the conference, he could be very well on an NFL roster this time next year. Nonetheless, they're immediate goals that need to be fulfilled first. "To be perfectly honest I'm 100% focused trying to get this team to the Rose Bowl. That's my only goal, and it has been for the last five years. I have one more chance and that's what I wanna do."
Hodgdon and his teammates cannot but notice all the chatter in the various media outlets and on campus that suggest that the team has fallen from grace with some fans following the USC loss. In fact, that's exactly what he expected. "I've been around long enough to know that it's the nature of the game," he said. "After a loss like we had last weeknd you're gonna see a lot of that. People jump on as quickly as they jump off. When we come out, win a few more games, and playing like we're capable of playing, people will jump right back on." Does that phenomena motivate him? "I don't play for the bandwagon people (smile). I play for myself and my teammates."
Victories away from the confines of Sun Devil stadium have been hard to come by in recent years. However, the success they usually experience at home does bode well for a squad that is about to play three of its next four games in Tempe. "I'd like to say that we're an outstanding road team, but the reality is that we're 8-3 at home the last year or so. That's something we'll continue doing and that's taking advantage of our home field."
Overall, Hodgdon is very content with the mental state of mind of his teammates and himself. Again, it comes down to looking at the bigger picture, and not dwelling on recent events. "I think we're doing fine," he stated. "Before practice, we came out and watched some clips of the outstanding pays we made earlier in the season, which reminded us of the type of team we're capable of playing as. We also realized that we need to have a short memory after a loss like that."
As pivotal as the UCLA game may appear to be, Hodgdon sees the Devils taking everything in stride. "I don't think we're gonna put any more pressure on ourselves than any other game we played this year," he claimed. "The goal and the key right now for maintaining our success is staying the team that we have been so far. If it isn't broken don't fix it. We certainly didn't play to our ability last weekend, but that doesn't mean that we're any different than we have been in the past."
It's Back to Fundamentals for Drew Hodgdon, Team
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