I mentioned yesterday that touchdowns are a bit overrated when it comes to evaluating a player or a unit. Among other things, they don't tell you about all the plays that set up the touchdown. But simply saying Dorial Green-Beckham caught seven passes for 100 yards doesn't communicate to you the magnitude of the day the sophomore from Springfield had. It wasn't his highest yardage total of the season, but it was easily is best performance. And if you don't believe me, listen to his cadence in the post-game interview below. Already a fast talker, DGB was talking at mach speed. He was excited.
That Kentucky all but refused to double-team DGB near the goal line was almost admirable in its steadfast "Okay, this time he's not going to burn us" sentiment. But DGB and Maty Mauk combined on a perfect fade-fade-fade-fake fade superfecta, with each score seeming more inevitable than the one before it. DGB was the most physically impressive player on the field, and on Saturday he decided there was no preventing him from scoring.
Upon witnessing his almost natural, inescapable dominance on Saturday, two questions come to mind:
1. What took so long? A five-star receiver doesn't usually play like a five-star receiver beginning with his first game. There's a learning and adjustment period. But if we indeed consider this DGB's "breakout game," it happened in his 21st collegiate contest. Alabama's Julio Jones was catching seven passes for 128 yards late in his freshman year against LSU. Florida's Percy Harvin had 427 receiving yards and 428 rushing yards as a freshman. A.J. Green went for 159 yards in his fourth game.
The narrative you'll inevitably hear on the radio, or perhaps even on TV, is that it took DGB a while to adjust for the speed of the game and get truly comfortable within the offense. That's almost certainly true to some degree. But I think it also bears mentioning that DGB has done whatever has been asked of him this year. His blocking has gone from fine to damn good, and Mizzou receivers are asked to block quite a bit. But beyond that, he's basically played the role he's been asked to play. When L'Damian Washington is going off, when opponents are doubling DGB over the top and leaving other options less covered, Missouri goes elsewhere with the ball. I'm sure if he'd turned into Danario 2009, the Sequel over the summer, coaches wouldn't have complained. But he's been a key cog in a machine that has thrived with variety. His performance against South Carolina was incredibly unfortunate, but his per-target numbers have been great otherwise. He just hasn't been targeted a ton.
Sometimes five-stars find themselves in complementary roles for a while. As a freshman, USC's Nelson Agholor (five-star, 2012) didn't have a lot to do behind Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. He had an out-of-nowhere game against Oregon (six catches, 162 yards), but outside of that game, he only caught 13 other passes. In 2013, however, he had slowly come along. And over the last month, he's dominated. Maybe this is where DGB's role changes a bit, but let's just say that I found this quote from a PowerMizzou piece last week incredibly heartening:
"We have each other's backs," Dorial Green-Beckham said. "No matter what. This team is a good team we got this year."
DGB chose Missouri because of the family and chemistry it appeared to offer. After a tough freshman season, he seems to be finding everything he hoped to find in Columbia. And if Saturday is any indication, he could be ready to take things to a different level ... if asked to do so.
2. What next? One of my favorite saying is that growth isn't linear. You typically don't just suddenly reach a new level and stay there. After Jones blew up against LSU, he caught six passes for 89 yards the next two weeks. But if Ole Miss or Texas A&M are to throw a lot of man-to-man defense at Missouri like Kentucky did, it's safe to say DGB could become more of a priority. Josh Henson below mentioned that the staff decided DGB should be getting more targets, and it goes without saying that he made the most of the opportunity. He could be the No. 1 target from here on out.
That said, we know how this offense works. If Ole Miss or A&M overcompensates for the threat of DGB, L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas, and the combination of Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser (Jimbud Sassent) will see a majority of the targets and do quite well with them.
Even if DGB doesn't have another game like Kentucky this year, his success will allow Josh Henson to get one step ahead of opposing defensive coordinators. If you single DGB, he might torch you. If you double him, Washington, Lucas, or Sassent could get you. And if you pay too much attention to the guys lined up wide in general, Mizzou will gash you with the run. The Tigers have already had most of the answers in 2013; on Saturday, they found one more. And considering how fun that was to watch, I wouldn't mind if the same answers work again the rest of the year.
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."
The Missourian: Missouri football's Green-Beckham sets record in win over Kentucky
Fox Sports MW: After a four-TD day, the sky's the limit for DGB -- a sky he can almost touch
Mizzou Network: HIGHLIGHT: Green-Beckham Touchdown at UK puts Mizzou up 7-3
Mizzou Network: HIGHLIGHT: DGB TD puts Mizzou up 21-3 over Kentucky
Mizzou Network: POST-GAME INTERVIEW: Dorial Green-Beckham after his 4 TD's vs. UK