LEXINGTON, Ky. — Maty Mauk wanted simply to keep the offense rolling for No. 9 Missouri before turning the job back to James Franklin. Dorial Green-Beckham was merely trying to help the Tigers’ backup quarterback succeed.
Their goals helped both make program history Saturday.
Mauk threw five touchdown passes to tie Chase Daniel’s school record, Green-Beckham set another mark by catching four of them and Missouri cruised past Kentucky 48-17.
Making his fourth consecutive start in place of the injured Franklin, the Tigers’ redshirt freshman completed 17 of 28 attempts for 203 yards by taking full advantage of 6-foot-6 sophomore Green-Beckham.
Mauk added a 6-yard scoring pass to Henry Josey, who also rushed for two TDs, including an 86-yarder.
“With your name besides his, obviously it’s a tremendous honor,” Mauk said of his achievement. “I couldn’t have done it without the five guys up front and the guys that made something happen after they caught the ball today.”
His achievement might not have been possible without Green-Beckham, whose previous best was a pair of two-TD games. Surprisingly finding himself covered by a single (and shorter) Kentucky defender, it was easy for him to go up and haul in Mauk’s jump-ball passes in the end zone.
“The safety was really rolling over most of the game,” said Green-Beckham, who had seven receptions for 100 yards. “I just felt like I came out there and just beat their defense myself and just went out there and made plays.”
Missouri (9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) allowed Kentucky (2-7, 0-5) two touchdowns in the third quarter but the Mauk-to-Green-Beckham connection answered both scores with TDs of 22 and seven yards.
“We were trying to play tight coverage, and we didn’t play it very well,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
The victory helped the Tigers stay a half-game ahead of idle South Carolina (5-2) atop the East division heading into their second bye and gave coach Gary Pinkel his fourth nine-win season in 13 years with Missouri.
Missouri outgained Kentucky 426-369, but its defense recorded 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks and recovered a fumble in handing the Wildcats their 13th straight SEC loss. The Tigers also extended their nation-leading streak of games with a takeaway to 40.
“We’re just trying to do our job and execute,” Tigers linebacker Andrew Wilson said.
Kentucky’s only consolation was scores on the opening possessions of both halves. Joe Mansour kicked a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter, while quarterback Jalen Whitlow ran for a 1-yard TD to start the second half.
Raymond Sanders’ 1-yard TD run brought the Wildcats within 35-17, but the Tigers tacked on two more TDs to cap a day in which they scored four consecutive times in the first half and three straight times in the second.
Mauk ended up matching his season TD total in one game before giving way to Franklin in the fourth quarter, his first action since injuring his shoulder against Georgia.
“We’re fortunate to get him (Franklin) back, but we’re also fortunate to have a backup quarterback that can plays like Maty Mauk’s playing,” Pinkel said. “He’s got a long way before he’s doing all the things right, but obviously the guy can make some plays.”
Josey finished with 113 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Dominant as the Tigers were, their timing seemed off during the first two series after the early start. But then they caught a huge break when Kentucky punter Landon Foster shanked a 13-yard kick to the Wildcats 39.
Back-to-back runs of 6 and 27 yards by Marcus Murphy moved the Tigers to Kentucky’s 8 and set up Mauk’s floater in the left corner of the end zone, where Green-Beckham effortlessly went up over 6-foot cornerback Nate Willis to snag the touchdown pass.
Missouri special teamer Levi Copeland made Foster’s day even worse on the next drive by blocking his attempted punt inside the 10. It was recovered by the punter at the 4. Josey ran it in on the next play, and like that the Tigers were up 14-3.
The Tigers’ next touchdown was nearly identical to the first, as Green-Beckham out-jumped Willis again on the left side of the other end zone for a 7-yard score to cap the Tigers’ first sustained drive, 67 yards and 10 plays.
Missouri was just as methodical on its final scoring drive of the half. The Tigers went 87 yards and 15 plays and ended with Mauk’s 6-yard pass to Josey, who stretched to hit the pylon as he was knocked out of bounds.
Kentucky controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes, but it didn’t matter as Missouri scored quickly in bunches. Josey’s 86-yard run early in the fourth quarter provided the exclamation point.