By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe one of the most inspirational parts of Kentucky’s 38-24 win over Toledo Saturday was seeing what sophomore linebacker Josh Paschal did.
About a year after being diagnosed with skin cancer and missing most of the 2018 season, Paschal showed why Kentucky coaches were so high on him before his cancer issue. He forced a fumble to set up a score, had a quarterback sack to stop Toledo’s early momentum and finished with 3.5 tackles even though UK wanted to make sure it did not overuse him.
“I mean, he was probably in there as much as he can handle today, I would assume. I don’t know his snap count, but he’s a starter and he’s in there,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It was very hot out there so you had to rotate some guys.
“Certainly with him couple weeks after his last treatment it’s great to see him out there. He’s been feeling good. I’m not sure what his snap count was today, but, yeah he’ll go as many (snaps) as he can handle.”
Defensive coordinator Brad White said there was no play limit on Paschal going into the game. Instead, it was more about the player rotation that included Jordan Wright, who also made some key plays.
“It’s nice to have a sort of two-headed monster at Jack (linebacker) right there, plus Josh slides inside and plays a nickel, so the deal is we can’t wear him out,” White said. “This isn’t going to be a team where we have guys playing 60 and 70 snaps. If we can have a bunch of guys playing really fast for 40 or 45 snaps, I think we’ll get better production.
“So that wasn’t an issue in terms of we felt like we had to manage him, it was a deal that he needed to get a little bit of a break. We’ve got guys that we trust, that can go, and we’ll continue to work through that rotation.”
Yet White was not trying to downplay the way Paschal played or the improvement he has made.
“He’s night and day from when I had him at the end of last season for those last three games. His movement skills are better, he’s physical, he’s violent,” White said. “There are some things that we have to clean up and he knows it, but we’ll get those.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a perfect game, but he got his feet under him. It was good to see him go make some big plays. I think he forced the fumble and got the sack, so that was good to help sort of turn the tide.”
Now here comes the best news for Kentucky football fans.
“He’s good, he knows that he’s just starting. This isn’t a peak for him, he’s just at ground level and now it’s about building that, so I was pleased,” White said.