Following Saturday’s victory, Coach Mark Stoops referred to football as “a game of inches.” But in the end, sometimes a few inches matter more than most.
If true freshman Josh Paschal didn’t know this before, he certainly does now.
With the Cats leading 24-17 and 1:21 left in the game, Paschal decked Ito Smith at the Southern Miss 1-yard line, silencing any concerns of the Golden Eagles’ running back making a last-minute, game-tying drive.
At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Paschal is an absolute beast. There’s no doubt Smtih is feeling this hit today.
This running back deserves to fight his offensive line, his quarterback, his coordinator. Everyone pic.twitter.com/Um6zVOp4k1
– Barstool Sports (@barstooltweetss) September 2, 2017
The monumental tackle knocked the wind out of the Southern Miss offense, and the team struggled during the following two plays of their final possession. After the hit, the USM quarterback overthrew the ball, making it 4th-and-13. The QB followed up with their last play of the game: scrambling in the end zone and another incomplete pass. The game was officially over, giving Kentucky their 600th program win and a clear starting point for the rest of the season.
“I feel good with [Paschal] in there,” Coach Mark Stoops said. “I think in practice this week, as we start doing more, and not playing against our offense, you start seeing some wide-eyed stuff that worries you a little bit. Then there’s guys, you put them in a game and let them play.”
Although still a true freshman, Paschal’s name is one we’ve been hearing for a while. Back in training camp, coaches and players alike were commenting on his athleticism and work ethic. In particular, defensive end Denzil Ware has been pushing him since day one.
During camp, Ware made a comment saying he would be on Paschal like “white on rice” if the freshman wasn’t working hard enough to replace him. Following Saturday’s victory, he reiterated:
“At the beginning of training camp, I told him ‘try to take my spot,’ Ware said. “If you’re not pressing hard enough to take my spot, then I can’t call you my teammate; I can’t call you my friend.”
This friendly competition has benefited both players, according to special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Dean Hood.
“He’s got a great mentor in Denzil [Ware]. Denzil challenges him, like ‘hey, beat me out,’ Hood said. “That’s made him better and made Josh better.”
“I’m just really happy for him to be in this environment and to make that type of play,” Ware said. “Because that’s what I expect out of him throughout his career here at UK.”