Missouri sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham had the kind of game Saturday that fans and teammates won’t soon forget — a performance likely to be fondly recalled years from now.
“I’m more relaxed out there and know my role a lot better,” Green-Beckham said. “I’m out there making a lot more plays than I did last year.”
Of course, it’s not simply the fact that Green-Beckham set a new Tigers single-game record with four touchdown grabs in a 48-17 win against Kentucky.
No, it’s the flair with which Green-Beckham battered the Wildcats that will be remembered.
“After I threw that first touchdown pass to him, when I saw him go up and get it, I’ve never seen somebody do it,” Missouri redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk said. “I knew it was going to be a game for him. It was a mismatch, and we took advantage of it.”
Mauk, who matched the Tigers’ single-game record with five touchdown passes in the victory, marveled at Green-Beckham’s elevation on that first touchdown.
Not even Kentucky junior cornerback Nate Willis’ pass-interference penalty prevented Green-Beckham from bringing down the 8-yard fade for a touchdown.
It was the third time this season a defender fouled Green-Beckham in the end zone, yet still failed to prevent the 6-foot-6 Springfield, Mo., native from snaring a touchdown.
Green-Beckham also shrugged off a pass-interference penalty for a touchdown grab at Indiana and overcame a holding penalty a week later for a touchdown against Arkansas State.
“I really just forget about the defender,” Green-Beckham said. “I’m placing the ball in the air and really just thinking about that ball, when it’s going to get there and me going up and grabbing it.”
Green-Beckham’s second touchdown against Kentucky, a 7-yard fade from Mauk, was equally impressive — another leaping grab over Willis.
“I told him after the game, ‘You won’t fade me up. Just remember that,’” senior cornerback E.J. Gaines said. “I was playing with him, but he’s a great receiver, man. I can just see him growing since he’s gotten here. He still has a lot to grow, but you can see he’s making progress every week.”
Of course, junior defensive end Kony Ealy was more impressed by Green-Beckham’s third-quarter touchdown, a 22-yard grab reaching over safety Eric Dixon and hauling in the touchdown with his hands wrapped around Dixon’s back.
“When he was in the end zone and he caught the ball over the defender, and the defender was between him and the ball, that was a veteran play,” Ealy said.
Credit offensive coordinator Josh Henson’s play-calling for the fourth-quarter score on a 7-yard slant, which fooled Willis completely. He was expecting another fade.
“You’re seeing what his potential can be on the field (Saturday),” Henson said. “When he’s playing like he did (Saturday), it’s very tempting (to throw it to him every play). When you go make plays, it builds confidence in what we call and how we’re going to use you.”
Focusing only on the touchdowns ignores two more great plays Green-Beckham made among his seven catches for 100 yards.
It started with a 35-yard bomb down the sideline on Missouri’s second drive, which Green-Beckham hauled in with one arm as he fell to the ground between bracket coverage.
Green-Beckham also caught a short tunnel screen on third and 10 deep in Tigers territory, breaking a series of Wildcat tackles as he spun his way 12 yards for a first down.
He suffered a sprained ankle late in the third quarter and wore a boot on his right foot after the game. But with Missouri on a bye week, he said he didn’t expect the ankle sprain to cost him any game time.
“I’m so proud of him, man,” Ealy said. “Whether it’s people saying he isn’t living up to his hype, he went out there and showed it (Saturday). He can do that every game. He’s a beast. I know he can do that. He’s got it in him.”