LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It's kind of hard to forget about Dorial Green-Beckham. After all, there aren't many 6-foot-6 wide receivers who were the No. 3 overall prospect in their recruiting class.
But the Missouri sophomore had become kind of a forgotten man for the Tigers the past couple of weeks. Against South Carolina and Tennessee, he had a total of three receptions for 28 yards. The superstar numbers many had predicted for him just hadn't materialized. Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson blamed himself for that.
"That kid is pretty talented, and we didn't give him a chance to make a difference in the game for us," Henson said.
That all changed Saturday, when a concerted effort to target Green-Beckham and some shoddy defense by Kentucky equaled a record-setting day. Green-Beckham set a school mark with four touchdown catches while finishing with seven receptions for 100 yards in the No. 8 Tigers’ 48-17 win over Kentucky.
The four touchdowns were one shy of his entire 2013 season total coming into the game. And if he can keep playing like that, then Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) will be hard to catch in the SEC East race.
"That gets me going," Green-Beckham said of his record day. "That's my motivation. I just want to go out there and do that every day."
Of course, he won't always get to face Kentucky, which has a long history of ending up on the other side of history. Green-Beckham had seen a lot of double-teams in recent weeks, which helped free up teammates like L'Damian Washington for big gains. On Saturday, the Wildcats decided to play mostly man-to-man coverage while devoting more help to the run.
But asking any defensive back to stop Green-Beckham by himself is simply calling for trouble, especially near the goal line. Three times, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk threw the ball up high and just let his taller receiver go get it, including one spectacular catch where Green-Beckham reached over the back of Kentucky safety Eric Dixon.
"His hands had to be 12 feet in the air," said Mauk, who tied a school record with five touchdown passes. "It was unbelievable. When I saw that, I knew he had come out with the mindset to have a great game."
Henson said that despite the lack of recent production in games, Green-Beckham had shown obvious improvement during practices. This week, he talked to his receiver about succeeding on more alley-oop plays where he could use his size as a weapon. Kentucky's defensive plan played right into that notion.
"It's just like basketball," Green-Beckham said. "It's like grabbing rebounds and taking the ball out the air. It's the same thing.
"I'm a 6-6, 230 guy. So I've just got to go into a game thinking like I can't be stopped. Then I just have to go out and actually back it up like I did today."
But it wasn’t just size that Green-Beckham used to his advantage. In the second quarter, he grabbed a short inside screen pass on third-and-10 and fought through tackles to barrel forward for a first down. When Missouri went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Kentucky 7-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats surely were on high alert for the fade. Instead, Mauk found Green-Beckham on a slant route for the touchdown.
The news wasn't all good, as Green-Beckham wore a walking boot on his right foot after the game. He said he suffered a sprained ankle after a lineman fell on his leg on a screen pass. With the Tigers on a bye week next week, he's confident that he will be fine for the Nov. 23 game versus Ole Miss.
Green-Beckham arrived at Missouri with immense hype. While he said he doesn't worry about any of that, his production hadn't yet matched his talent and potential. It’s possible, however, that his much-anticipated breakthrough came Saturday in the Bluegrass State.
"This is what you're hoping for with a big, tall guy," Henson said. "You're looking for him to do what he did today."