LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Ninth-ranked Missouri would rather stay on its offensive roll than take time off.
After all, the Tigers are eager to see what’s next after backup quarterback Maty Mauk tied a school record with five touchdowns passing in Saturday’s 48-17 rout of Kentucky. Four of Mauk’s touchdowns went to sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who set a Missouri mark.
Green-Beckham wanted to keep going, but the walking boot on his sprained right ankle also indicated a need to step back.
Coach Gary Pinkel won’t complain about a late-season bye. With remaining Southeastern Conference games at Ole Miss on Nov. 23 and against No. 10 Texas A&M and Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel the following week, the Tigers (9-1, 5-1) need this down time to refresh as they seek the East title.
“This break will allow us to mentally get away from football,” Pinkel said after reaching nine wins for the fourth time in 13 seasons with the Tigers.
The bye will also help the Tigers make the transition from Mauk back to James Franklin at quarterback.
After the win, Pinkel declared that the senior would likely start against the Rebels after missing four games with a shoulder injury. He was available against the Wildcats in an emergency that wasn’t necessary with Mauk’s record-tying day, but he did get some fourth-quarter work.
“The ideal thing was to do exactly what we did,” Pinkel said. “We just wanted to get some reps with him. The biggest thing was: Can he take that hit? With these extra two weeks, he’ll be ready to start for us.”
Franklin has a tough act to follow after his backup offered an encouraging peek at Missouri’s future.
Mauk capped an impressive 3-1 record in relief of Franklin. In one game, the redshirt freshman matched his season touchdown total, and he has thrown eight TD passes the past two.
Besides reading Kentucky’s blitz packages and coverages, Mauk scrambled in the pocket to extend plays long enough to look for an assortment of tall receivers. He finished with 203 yards on 17-of-28 passing and tied Chase Daniel for the most TDs in a game.
He credited Franklin for helping his development.
“I couldn’t even tell you how much with James there beside me, helping me every day,” Mauk said of his growth. “What it takes is time, and that’s obviously what it came down to. Now, we are out there executing just like we were.”
Mauk locked in on the 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham when the Tigers got near the goal line, lofting a couple of passes for the receiver to easily jump and grab over shorter Kentucky defenders. But the gutsiest call was a slant pass on fourth-and-3 from the Wildcats 7, the TD that put Missouri up 41-17 and Green-Beckham in the record books.
Told that Tigers coaches predicted a big game against Kentucky, Green-Beckham downplayed it, saying, “We really don’t talk much about that.”
“We just talk about our receiver group, just how we need to go out and be the game-breakers,” he added.
Green-Beckham said the boot he wore was just a precaution. He expects to be healed by the end of a week in which the Tigers aim to rest and get healthy in preparation for closing the deal on an SEC East title. Missouri leads South Carolina by half a game and needs to win out to avoid a potential tie against the last team to beat the Tigers.
Nothing about Ole Miss and especially Texas A&M will be easy. But having two quarterbacks that can execute the offense should put the Tigers’ minds at ease.
Said offensive coordinator Josh Henson, “It gives you a lot of confidence for the future.”
Missouri stayed at number 9 heading into bye week in the AP poll.