COLUMBIA — For weeks and weeks, Missouri receiver T.J. Moe issued the same simple refrain when asked how the Tigers’ offense could get out of its funk: some receiver — heck, any receiver — needed to make a play.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
So imagine the collective relief the Tigers’ receivers felt Saturday when — in a manner befitting former MU stars Danario Alexander or Jeremy Maclin — they had not one, not two, but several players step up in a 51-48 quadruple overtime victory over Tennessee.
Whether it was sophomore Bud Sasser’s 40-yard catch down the sideline in the third quarter, or sophomore Jimmie Hunt’s kick return for a touchdown and TD catch in overtime, or even Marcus Lucas’ overtime touchdown after bouncing back from several drops, the Tigers’ offensive explosion was a team effort.
And while it’s hard to imagine Missouri winning without any of those performances, what surely caught the eyes of MU fans was the continued growth of freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He caught two passes for 35 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-tying score in the fourth quarter that came with MU facing fourth and 12 from the Tennessee 25.
“You talk about a big play; how big could that play be?” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “It’s probably game over if that play doesn’t work.”
Pinkel credited quarterback James Franklin’s ability to extend the play and make a good throw, and the growing confidence of Green-Beckham, who told Franklin what route he planned to run.
“I think for Dorial, that’s experience,” Pinkel said. “He’s playing more, he’s getting a little more confidence and I also think there’s instinct there.”
After accumulating only seven catches for 128 yards and a touchdown through the first five games of the season, the 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham — the consensus No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012 — has caught 15 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games.
“He’s a lot different football player right now than he was five weeks ago because he’s working so hard on fundamentals,” Pinkel said. “It’s a glimpse of what he can be. A glimpse.”
Pinkel was quick to add that he said the same thing about Sheldon Richardson last season and Richardson now looks like an all-American defensive tackle and a possible first-round NFL Draft pick.
“If he continues to work hard like he does,” Pinkel said of Green-Beckham, “then a lot of good things will happen for him and for us.”
But if the Tigers want to continue the good vibes, they will need all of their receivers to play like they did against the Vols.
“They start to make some big plays,” Pinkel said, “and I also think what goes with (that is) confidence.”