Receiver Josh Ali admitted that Kentucky’s Senior Day could not have gone any better. The Wildcats routed New Mexico State 56-16 and amassed 707 total yards — the second-most in school history.
“We came out a bit slow, but in the second half everyone got in the groove. We came out and we handled business,” Ali said.
Ali certainly was in a “groove” for his final game at Kroger Field which was nice to see. He opted to return to UK for an extra season but not only missed time with an ankle injury but saw Wan’Dale Robinson become the top receiving target.
However, Ali never pouted and Saturday he had seven catches for a career-high 164 yards and a career-best two touchdowns. He averaged 23.4 yards per catch, second highest in school history for a player with seven receptions in a game (Dee Smith averaged 24.3 yards per catch on seven receptions in 1987 against Tennessee).
“Josh made some people miss, creating some first downs, making some good catches,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He had the one drop early, and then he responded and played well the rest of the second half.”
Ali now ranks 15th on UK’s all-time receiving list with 1,399 yards. He had a 55-yard scoring catch against New Mexico State to help that total.
“Oh, it felt great. I wish I didn’t get hurt, so I could have gotten more of those (big plays) this year, but I did what I could today so that I could have a good last game here at Kroger Field,” Ali said.
He hopes the victory sent a message about what the offense can do going into the regular-season final game at Louisville.
“I believe that we can do a lot more. I feel like we had a few mistakes and left a few mistakes out there. I feel like next week is going to be a very good game,” Ali said.
The senior knows the Louisville game means a lot to the UK program.
“Just seeing how the fan base feels about it is crazy, and them being an hour away. I thought Tennessee would be bigger, but I think this one is the biggest of the whole year,” Ali said. “It’s a big deal. I’m really grateful for it.”
Ali watched Louisville dismantle Duke Thursday night for its sixth win — more than most expected from the Cardinals this year.
“I feel like they did pretty good, 300 in the air, 200 on the ground from their quarterback. He had a good game,” Ali said. “But I don’t think our defense is going to be the same as Duke’s defense.
“Not throwing anything on Duke, but I feel like we’re going to come out there and give them a better challenge.”
Ali knows he has the Louisville game and a bowl game left before his career ends but his time at UK has gone by quickly.
“It flew by. I try to tell the young guys, take advantage of the opportunities you get, because it’s going to fly by before you know it,” Ali said.