On the final series last weekend, Kentucky had Southern Miss backed up in its own end zone.
On second down, freshman Josh Paschal shed one quick block and then threw Golden Eagles star running back Ito Smith to the ground near the goal line.
“Smith got absolutely lit up by Josh Paschal,” play-by-play announcer Dave Ryan said of the tackle that helped secure Kentucky’s 24-17 season-opening win on the road.
As the replay continued, color analyst Corey Chavous added: “Whoa, fast moves. That was a pretty good shot.”
The tackle — Paschal’s first and only of his new Kentucky career — was enough to draw him praise in the television booth.
But he’s still waiting to join an elite club with friends and fellow outside linebackers Josh Allen and Denzil Ware, who have started referring to themselves affectionately as the “Blitz Brothers” or the “Blitz Bros” for short.
“They call me Blitz Baby,” smiled Paschal, who hardly looks the part of baby at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds. “They always say that because of my baby face, because I’m a freshman and I’ve got a baby face.”
It’s not just his baby face that created the nickname. He still has a little work to do to join the club, Ware joked this week as Kentucky prepares for its home opener against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
“He’s just gonna have to ball out, gonna have to stand out,” Ware said of the freshman. “Blitz Bros stand out. … He gotta get his name in that sack race. Until then he’s going to be Blitz Baby. I got faith he’ll come along.”
For Paschal to elevate himself to Blitz Brother status, he has to start getting to the quarterback.
“They’re teaching me their ways,” Paschal said of his new mentors.
In that sack race, Allen and Ware are tied at one each after one game. Allen had three tackles for loss and a forced fumble in the opener. Ware added a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
“You gotta work your ranks up,” Ware said of Paschal. “So right now, he’s Blitz Baby and if he keeps on going up, he’ll be on (the next) level, blitz cousin. He’s just gotta work for it.”
Ware may have elevated himself a little bit, too, after his fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Golden Eagles on Saturday.
“Oh, I’m blitz daddy now,” he joked.
Both players have helped Paschal grow his game since he arrived on campus, the freshman said.
“Both of them are great with sacks and third-down pass rushes. They’ve really helped me a lot,” he said. “There’s really a brotherhood here.”
Paschal is going to earn his way in soon enough, his Kentucky coaches said of the player who is in a lot on third-down packages with Allen and Ware.
Playing in just his first college game, Paschal was able to play multiple spots for the UK defense, which could make him a dangerous weapon.
“He’s a handful,” head coach Mark Stoops said of Paschal coming from the defensive end position on third downs specifically.
“I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s played a lot of positions. He’s very unique because he’s just as effective with his hand down as he is standing up. That’s very rare for a young guy.”
What’s also rare is Paschal’s size. The athletic freshman, just a few months out of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, Md., is listed as 270 pounds.
That’s 40 pounds more than Allen is listed at and 25 pounds more than Ware’s roster weight.
“We’ve got some big guys: Josh Allen’s a big guy. Denzil Ware’s a big guy,” outside linebackers coach Dean Hood said. “But Pashcal … doing those things, moving around like he does. So that was the first thing that was so impressive.
“When I heard how much he weighed. He really doesn’t look that. Then you see him do what he does and you say, ‘Hey, he’s 260 plus and running around doing those things. It’s pretty impressive for a human being that size to be doing the things he does at that position.”
The UK pass rush could get in a lot of attempts Saturday against the Colonels, who threw it 69 percent of the time last week in a loss at Western Kentucky.
Quarterback Tim Boyle connected on 60.4 percent of his throws and had two touchdowns. The Colonels only gave up one sack and four tackles for loss to Western.
And Paschal still has some work to do, defensive coordinator Matt House said, pointing to lower pad level and more consistency setting the edge when he’s at the outside linebacker spot.
Maybe in a few weeks House will see those things and more. Maybe in a few games, Paschal will be able to get his Blitz Bros card.
It’s a club Ware and Allen have made their own.
“They do take great pride in getting to the quarterback and getting after it and that’s what it takes,” Stoops said. “You should, but also in run game and just pass game, everything they have to do, they played a very good game.”
Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
Noon (SEC Network)