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November 9, 2013

DGB breaks out

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Dorial Green-Beckham has been on Missouri's roster since June 2012, when he enrolled in Columbia.

We never saw the true DGB until Saturday in Lexington.

Green-Beckham set a school record with four touchdown receptions. He finished with seven catches for 100 yards. This wasn't the high-school player who set national records against clearly outmatched opponents in Missouri. This wasn't a five-star recruit because of his potential, what he could be down the road.

This was the performance of a player who is taking the next step that everyone expected. This was the performance, perhaps overdue, for which we've waited.

These were hard yards and catches, earned with physicality and fight. There were no moments of slipping behind the defense, running free downfield. Kentucky won't be confused with the SEC's elite, but Green-Beckham has come a long way from Hillcrest High School.

He broke tackles on tunnel screens. He leapt over and around defenders, catching passes in the endzone above defenders -- and, in one case, behind a defender's back.

The set-up to Green-Beckham's big day took a while to develop. His non-conference averages (5.25 catches, 83 yards and a touchdown a game) were an improvement over an inconsistent freshman campaign. But the SEC season saw his production stall:

2.4 catches a game for 29 yards on average. Only one touchdown.

While Gary Pinkel said there wasn't any more emphasis on getting Green-Beckham the ball, his assistants said otherwise. On Monday, receivers coach Pat Washington predicted a break-out game. On Saturday, Josh Henson said it was a decided effort to get the ball to the five-star receiver.

"I just felt like we needed to get the ball to him more," Henson said. "Give him more opportunities to make some plays."

"I guess they saw it before I went out and played," Green-Beckham. "We really don't talk about that much, we just talk about our receiver group, how we need to go out there and be the game-breakers, make plays and be the one that gets our offense going."

Kentucky lined up in man coverage often during the game, and that's where Henson said he saw the opportunity.

"It's an advantage that teams wish they had," quarterback Maty Mauk said. "It's kind of scary for a defender to try to match-up with a 6-6 guy that can jump that high."

It was a performance set into motion on Feb. 1, 2012, when Green-Beckham put on a Mizzou snap-back hat in the Hillcrest High School gymnasium. It ended a long recruitment, beginning when he was in eighth grade and growing in spectacle in the following years. It caused Missouri's offensive coaching staff, watching the announcement on ESPN in a conference room in Columbia, to show their excitement with polite but forceful claps and pats on the back.

"This is what you're hoping for," Henson said.

Mauk was a part of that recruitment, committing to the Tigers in July 2011 and immediately turning his attention to getting the nation's top-ranked player on his future team.

"I remember the first time I heard about him," Mauk said. "Coach (David) Yost said, 'Hey, there's this kid, he's fast, he's 6-foot-6, he runs a 4.3.'

"My sister lives in Springfield. We went down and saw him. We played basketball at his high school and you could just tell, when you saw him, the athletic ability he had."

Saturday, Mauk saw his efforts two years ago pay off. He was the one throwing the passes to Green-Beckham in both players' best college game to date.

"It was definitely going through my mind all the time," Mauk said, remembering what he thought when he met Green-Beckham before his senior year in high school.

"Hey, I'm gonna throw some touchdowns to this guy."

Mauk's dream became a reality on Saturday. In the process, the nation finally got its first look at the real DGB, and Missouri reaped the benefits of a career-game by its star receiver.

Mizzou 48 Kentucky 17 from PowerMizzou on Vimeo.

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