Paschal

Josh Paschal will be among Kentucky's seniors who will be honored on Saturday. (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky will honor its seniors and then close out the home portion of its schedule on Saturday against New Mexico State.

The upperclassmen expected to be honored prior to kickoff include Darian Kinnard, Austin Dotson, Isaiah Epps, Josh Paschal, Yusuf Corker, Mrquan McCall, DeAndre Square, Tyrell Aijan and Devonte Robinson. The senior class has been a part of the program for the past five seasons and have secured 38 victories, including bowl wins over Penn State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.

"We greatly appreciate our seniors,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “They have meant so much to our program. Some of them have been here six years, and, arguably, one of the greatest six years in the history of this school."

Those moments included a 6-0 start to open the season and became the first UK team since 1977 to finish second place in the Southeastern Conference, and the first to clinch an outright second-place finish in the Eastern Division since the league was split into two divisions in 1992.

"I'm proud of the team, that our team will have a winning SEC record," Stoops said. "At the end of the day, there's going to be four of five teams in our league that have a winning record in the SEC."

Kentucky ended a three-game losing streak with a 34-17 victory over Vanderbilt last week in Nashville. The Wildcats (7-3) raced out to a 31-3 lead to set the tone. Stoops admitted late-season games can be difficult at times.

“It gets hard late in the year," Stoops said. "The mental and physical drain that it takes on our players. I don't think people appreciate that enough when you go through this schedule."

Kentucky endured a tough three-game stretch that included losses to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee, following conference wins over traditional conference powerhouses LSU and Florida.

“We went through a tough little stretch and wish, like always you look at any year, you wish you had a couple plays, that couple series (to do over),” Stoops said. “A lot of 'what ifs,' but overall very proud of our group and they did a lot of good things. Certainly, finished a lot higher than most people predicted in the East, I can probably promise you that.”

The Aggies, led by former Kentucky signal caller Doug Martin, will play an SEC foe for the second straight week, New Mexico State (1-9) dropped a 59-3 setback to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Kentucky defeated the Aggies 62-42 in 2016.

“We just have to worry about ourselves. He's obviously a very good coach, gave us all we could handle the last time he was here. So, we've got to be worried about ourselves and prepared for us and go play a good football game. He's done a really nice job.”

Earlier this week, Corker and Paschal accepted an invitation to compete in the Reese’s Senior Bowl event that will be played on Feb. 5 in Mobile, Alabama.

Heralded freshman receiver Dekel Crowdus won’t play for the Wildcats this season. The former Frederick Douglass High School standout suffered a knee injury in fall camp.

Gametracker: New Mexico State at Kentucky, noon, Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or via Twitter at keithtaylor21

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