LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk threw a record-tying five touchdown passes, four to sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, as No. 8-Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) rolled Kentucky (2-7, 0-5) 48-17 on Saturday.
While Mauk-to-DGB was the punctuation to four scoring drives, resulting in a single-game team record for Green-Beckham, Missouri's defense and special teams came up with key plays after a sluggish start.
Trailing 3-0 with less than three minutes in the first quarter, Missouri's defense held Kentucky on third-and-16, forcing a punt from the Wildcats' 26-yard line. Kentucky punter Landon Foster shanked the kick, going out of bounds at the 39-yard line for a net total of 13 yards.
Missouri scored three plays later, the first touchdown pass between Mauk and Green-Beckham.
On Kentucky's next drive, Missouri's defense again forced a punt. This time, the punt-block team went onto the field, and redshirt freshman receiver Levi Copelin broke through Kentucky's line and blocked Foster's attempt, giving the ball to the Tigers at the Wildcats' four-yard line.
A play later, Henry Josey scored, his first of three touchdowns on the day.
"Yeah, the short field and kick -- we've done that before, it's not a whole lot of fun," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "The block is not a mistake. That's a great play by our punt block team. That's just a great play. We thought we had a chance to get in there when they spread out, and Coach (Craig) Kul (Kuligowski) wanted to do it.
"I'm always hesitant a little bit because I don't want to hit the punter and have them get 15 yards and stay on the field ... It was a huge play. Those blocked punts are huge momentum plays."
Missouri added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, the first on a seven-yard pass to Green-Beckham. The second touchdown, which pushed the lead to 28-3 at halftime, was a six-yard swing pass to Josey.
With Missouri controlling the game, Kentucky found some rhythm on offense on its first drive of the third quarter. Mainly on the ground, quarterback Jalen Whitlow led the Wildcats on a 73-yard, 13-play drive, ending in a one-yard sneak for a touchdown.
Missouri went three and out on its next drive, but punter Christian Brinser punted the ball 61 yards to Kentucky's five-yard line to re-establish some momentum.
That's when the defense -- after registering five sacks in the first half -- made its biggest play of the game.
Whitlow found running back Raymond James down the sideline on second-and-11, and James took the pass for a 40-yard gain. However, Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson forced a fumble which was recovered by Darvin Ruise. Two plays later, Green-Beckham added his third touchdown catch on a 22-yard pass on which he jumped over and reached behind a defender, catching the ball behind the Kentucky player's back.
"That's happened a lot with this team, if you go back and look at it," Pinkel said. "That's gonna happen. We've played some good people. Some people are going to stop us, and people that can make plays. When one of the side is struggling a little bit, the other side has to stand up. It's happening a lot in a very positive way for our team."
With a 35-10 lead, Kentucky added another touchdown to cut the lead to 35-17. However, Missouri added the flourish on the day with the fourth and final touchdown pass from Mauk to Green-Beckham, followed up by an 86-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey in the fourth quarter. Josey led all rushers with 11 carries for 113 yards. Green-Beckham had seven catches for 100 yards, including the four touchdowns.
MAUK'S DAY, FRANKLIN'S RETURN: Maty Mauk tied Chase Daniel's team record with five touchdown passes in his best game of the season, according to the statistics and his offensive coordinator.
Mauk completed 17-of-28 passes for 203 yards and five touchdowns, avoiding a turnover for the second consecutive game. Mauk completed 60.1 percent of his passes, the first time in four starts in which he broke that mark and only the second time he completed at least half his attempts.
"He missed a few reads today, but I thought overall, this was the best of where his eyes were at," Josh Henson said. "I think it's just a comfort level of experience, where you're playing and you just see things. I thought he was really good at where he was looking today. I think he just continued to improve every week."
In the fourth quarter, with the game in hand, James Franklin replaced Mauk for two drives, handing the ball off five times and throwing zero passes.
Pinkel said the medical staff cleared Franklin to play "on emergency basis only" against Kentucky, should anything have happened to Mauk.
"We would have been very limited in what we would call, but we would play with him," Pinkel said.
So, with the game not in any doubt, Pinkel said putting Franklin in for a few series was "the ideal thing" to simply get him some repetitions without getting hit. Although Franklin didn't attempt a pass, Pinkel and Henson said there's benefit to getting him his first action in a game since Georgia five weeks ago.
"I just wanted to knock a little rust off," Henson said. "Give him a chance to get back in there and just operate the offense. I think it just gives you a comfort level if you get in there and run a few plays.
"I think you're out there, you're in the arena a little bit, you're back in it a little bit," Pinkel said. "He certainly has a lot of experience. We put the back-up offensive line in, and I certainly didn't want to have somebody blow through the A-gap and hit him, so I was very, very cautious on that.
"We're fortunate to get him back, and we're also fortunate to have a back-up quarterback that can play like Maty Mauk's playing. He's got a long way before he's doing all the things right, but obviously he can make some plays."
It appears Mauk's run as starter will end, as Pinkel said Franklin will return as starter after the bye week when Missouri heads to Oxford to play Ole Miss. In his four games as starter, Mauk completed 57 of 116 passes for 910 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating in those games was 140.03.
"I think it gives you a lot of confidence, for the future," Henson said. "I think Maty has obviously played well. Can he play better? Sure. I thought today was probably his most complete game, as far as accuracy with his throws. He didn't go rush for 114 yards today and make a bunch of plays with his feet. He made plays with his arm today, I thought.
"It says a lot of great things about Maty. We have to go back and assess where we are with everything, but, just really proud of the way -- you know, your back-up quarterback comes in at the point of the season that he came in, just really proud of the way the team rallied and he responded."
SINGLETON STEPS IN: In the first quarter, safety Ian Simon, the Tigers' main nickelback, went down early in the game with an ankle injury. Junior college transfer Duron Singleton stepped in and played the rest of the game in Simon's place.
Singleton had his best game of the season, finishing with seven tackles, two for loss. Before Saturday, Singleton had ten tackles all season.
"I'm very comfortable now," Singleton said. "I know the defense well. As time goes on, I'm getting more playing time. Basically, we're just splitting and we're helping each other out."
"He'd been playing more, and actually we were going to sub him more this week, too," Pinkel said. "It's a pretty good one-two punch there. He went in and did a real good job."
Simon did return in the game, although Singleton received the major of reps in the nickel defense. Going forward, Singleton said he and Simon will continue to complement each other.
"Both of us, we're good coverers," Singleton said. "Ian's probably more of a cover-type guy than I am. I feel like I can stop the run more, help out with the run, get off blocks and everything like that, so that's basically the difference with us."
MURPHY STRUGGLES: Running back Marcus Murphy had a rough day. He fumbled after a 39-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, which was recovered by Kentucky. In the second quarter, Murphy also appeared to fumble after a punt, but off-setting penalties erased that possibility.
After that, Murphy was replaced on both kickoff returns and punt returns, and he didn't carry the ball again. Pinkel downplayed the significance of replacing Murphy after the game.
"Just lost the ball a couple of times," Pinkel said. "We just thought it was the right thing to do, to kind of give him a pause there a little bit."