Missouri sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said last week he was still trying to develop timing with freshman quarterback Maty Mauk.
Something must have clicked in practice because Green-Beckham had a game for the ages Saturday, setting a Missouri record with four receiving touchdowns as the ninth-ranked Tigers pummeled Kentucky 48-17 at Commonwealth Stadium.
“There’s a physical mismatch with almost anybody he plays against,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s 6 (feet) 6 and weighs 225 pounds, and he’s athletic and can jump. We’re just fortunate he’s on my team.”
Five MU players — including Danario Alexander, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin — had caught three touchdown passes in a game before, but none had snagged four before Green-Beckham.
“Green-Beckham was the No. 1 player in the country a couple years ago, right?” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He’s a beast.”
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk became the only Missouri quarterback not named Chase Daniel to throw five touchdowns in a game, matching the record Daniel achieved four times.
Mauk, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 203 yards and didn’t throw an interception, is 3-1 as a starter, but he figures to return to a backup role after MU’s bye week.
“It gives you a lot of confidence for the future,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “Maty has obviously played well. Can he play better? Sure, but I thought today was probably his most complete game as far as his accuracy with his throws.”
Senior James Franklin, who hadn’t played since the fourth quarter Oct. 12 at Georgia, played two series. He didn’t attempt a pass, but Pinkel said he expects Franklin to play Nov. 23 at Mississippi.
“When your backup quarterback comes in at the point of the season that he came in, I’m just really proud of the way that he’s responded,” Henson said.
Missouri, 9-1 and 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference, fell behind 3-0 when Kentucky netted a 21-yard field goal by Joe Mansour on its opening possession.
Special teams struggles by the Wildcats, 2-7 and 0-5, eventually helped the Tigers get on track.
Punter Landon Foster’s 13-yard shank set up Missouri’s first touchdown — an 8-yard fade from Mauk to Green-Beckham, who was interfered with but still made a spectacular leaping catch over Kentucky junior cornerback Nate Willis.
“The first one, when I saw him go up, his hands had to be at least 12 feet in the air,” Mauk said. “It was unbelievable when I saw him go up and get that. I knew he came out and had that mindset that he was going to have a good game, and he did.”
Kentucky’s next drive ended with a blocked punt by freshman Levi Copelin, which set up junior Henry Josey’s 4-yard touchdown one play later for a 14-3 lead.
Later in the second quarter, Green-Beckham made another leaping grab over Willis on an end-zone fade and Josey added a 6-yard diving touchdown catch and run. It was first receiving touchdown of Josey’s career and made it 28-3 after halftime.
Kentucky didn’t go quietly in the second half, marching 73 yards on 13 after receiving the opening kickoff in the third quarter.
Quarterback Jalen Whitlow’s 1-yard touchdown plunge made it 28-10.
The Wildcats appeared to have something brewing the next drive too when Whitlow found a wide-open Raymond Sanders out of the backfield for a 40-yard gain, but Tigers senior Andrew Wilson tracked down Sanders and forced a fumble from behind — extending Missouri’s streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 40.
Three plays later, Mauk beat a corner blitz by Willis with a lob to the end zone for Green-Beckham, who outleapt safety Eric Dixon for his third touchdown. He finished with seven catches for 100 yards, the second 100-yard game of his career.
Green-Beckham’s record-breaking touchdown grab came on the first play of the fourth quarter, a fourth-and-3 slant from Mauk for another 7-yard score after Sanders had atoned with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Josey, who finished with 11 carries for 113 yards and three total touchdowns, put the finishing touches on the blowout with an 86-yard touchdown later in the fourth quarter.