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Hochman: The 'h' in Joshuah stands for 'hero.' Mizzou's Bledsoe saved the day in win over LSU

Hochman: The 'h' in Joshuah stands for 'hero.' Mizzou's Bledsoe saved the day in win over LSU

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Joshuah Bledsoe, Mizzou football

Mizzou senior Joshuah Bledsoe deflects the potential game-winning touchdown pass in the Tigers’ 45-41 upset of LSU on Oct. 10, 2020. Photo courtesy of Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics

What will you do when you do it?

A guy might say he knows, but he doesn’t. No one truly knows how they’ll react after making a game-winning play — you can’t choreograph raw emotion, it just has to organically take its course.

So what did Joshuah Bledsoe do when he did it?

He just started running. Straight ahead, impulsively, imperviously — 45 fitting yards in the 45-41 victory.

On fourth and 1 at the 1, the defensive back soared toward the football and batted it away, preserving Mizzou’s first win of the year, first win under coach Eli Drinkwitz and first win against a defending national champion in 42 years. After his celebratory sprint, Bledsoe slowed near midfield as teammates arrived.

“It was like when you’re at a party and your favorite song comes on, and you and the guys just start turning it up,” Bledsoe said by phone after Tuesday’s practice. “After I ran down the field, all my friends, all my teammates just came at me and starting turning it up with me. … Man, it was fun.”

Joshuah Bledsoe. An important cog in the Mizzou defense, he’s now in the cognizance of Mizzou importance. He’s the guy who broke up the fourth-down pass in the end zone to beat LSU. They’ll refer to him at The Heidelberg and Harpo’s as long as reminiscing is a thing.

So, what did it all feel like?

“It just feels like … ” Bledsoe said before a pause, “all the work I’ve put in is paying off. Everybody is finally seeing it, the world is seeing it. … And man, I’ve seen (the play) everywhere, all over! It’s on every social media, on Twitter, on Instagram. I had people tagging me on Snapchat, people sending me videos through text.”

The senior free safety actually fared pretty well in last Saturday’s home game, which many of his fellow defensive backs cannot say. He matched up competitively against LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., who only caught three passes with Bledsoe as the primary guy on him. And on LSU’s final four plays, the visitors had failed runs on first and second down, and a third-down pass batted down by Mizzou’s Nick Bolton — so it made sense to target Marshall one last time. He already had 11 catches and three touchdowns — not for the season, but for the day alone.

So there in the slot to the right of quarterback Myles Brennan, No. 6 in white and gold starred down No. 1 in black and gold.

“I know they’re going to try to get it to him,” Bledsoe said. “The first thought was they were going to throw a fade route. Try to fade me up in the corner of the end zone. So I’m already thinking I’ll play the fade, and figured it would be some type of outside route. As the ball was snapped, he came to me. Right into me. And then he push off a little bit — and went flat.

“Now, in the end zone, there isn’t much space back there, so as he went flat, I just cut the angle off. I knew the ball had to come that way. ... I immediately got my eyes up — and I saw the ball. I’m right there, so I’m going to touch it. I really should’ve intercepted it! But it happened so fast.”

Drinkwitz had fans (and some media members) wondering why he didn’t call timeouts during LSU’s final drive. But unlike the fans (and some media members), Drinkwitz didn’t think LSU was going to score. The new guy’s got some gumption. Forty-one points might say he should’ve been more conservative, but credit Drinkwitz — he knows his guys and his gut (and his guys’ guts). Mizzou had been airtight defending third-down plays all day. And once LSU got to the 1-yard line, Mizzou defensive coordinator Ryan Walters was confident in the defensive scheme — he’d seen LSU run the same progression of goal line plays against Alabama a year ago.

“Josh Bledsoe made an outstanding break on the football,” said Drinkwitz, whose team plays next at Florida on Oct. 24. “I’m incredibly proud for him. He’s a guy who works extremely hard, that does everything we ask him to do. He’s playing through being uncomfortable, he’s playing through nicks and bruises and all kinds of stuff. And he just shows up to work every single day and does what we ask him to do.”

And in the locker room after the game, Bledsoe celebrated by literally listening to his favorite songs and turning it up with his teammates.

Bledsoe went live on Instagram, showing a video stream of the Tigers, still in uniform, dancing to the songs “Sticks With Me” and “Twerksum.”

He then got a call from his brother, Jerrick, back in Texas.

“You did that!” his big brother said, in reference to the fourth-down play.

Then, Bledsoe’s parents called, too.

“The people you love, I’m doing this for them,” he said. “I’m trying to go to the NFL so I can take care of my family. So it’s always good to make them happy and put on a performance for them.”

Bledsoe actually stayed in that Saturday night. Friends tried to persuade him to go out, but he was spent. It had been a day. So he stayed in with teammate and roommate Markell Utsey. Bledsoe grilled steak and chicken.

Asked to describe his grilling talents, Bledsoe said: “I like to use the word — scrumdiddlyumptious!”

On Monday night, Bledsoe was at a campus computer lab when a fellow student started staring at him.

“I was looking at him back, like, ‘What’s up?’” Bledsoe recalled. “And then he said: ‘Hey man — nice play!’”

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