Marshall football: Cato expected to keep developing as a passer
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg can tell his quarterback Rakeem Cato is growing up by looking at the list of receivers from last Saturday's game against West Virginia.
The sophomore found 13 different receivers against the Mountaineers. The closest the Thundering Herd (0-1) has come to that feat since 2002 was on Sept. 9, 2006, when Bernard Morris and Jimmy Skinner combined to find 12 different receivers in a 54-31 win over Hofstra.
Legg said the sophomore's nine games as Marshall's starting quarterback in 2011 has allowed him to become more comfortable and seek that many receivers.
"The thing he's doing is he's learning to take what the defense gives him," Legg said. "By no stretch of the imagination were any of us perfect on Saturday, including him. But the progress he's made from last year to this year and the progress I just know he's going to continue to make is going to allow us the opportunity to be successful on offense."
Cato's 413 yards against the Mountaineers was the third best passing day in the Football Bowl Subdivision last Saturday. He completed 38 of 54 passes and said he could tell he made a lot of Herd offensive players happy by keeping them involved.
"I think I did pretty good on that, knowing all my receivers walked off the field catching the ball and running backs were catching the ball, knowing everyone had a smile on their face and that they did what they can do," he said. "That's where trust comes in."
Legg trusts that Cato will continue developing as a passer as the season progresses. Marshall hosts Football Championship Subdivision member Western Carolina (1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday (Fox College Sports Atlantic telecast).
"If you've got a great bus driver, you have a chance," he said. "Now if you put some guys around him, which I think we have, then that makes the opportunities that much better."
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WESTERN CAROLINA quarterback Troy Mitchell wasn't the only true freshman who had a big game in his college debut.
Mitchell was named Southern Conference Freshman of the Week after completing 20 of 29 passes, gaining 189 total yards and rushing for two touchdowns in the Catamounts' 42-14 win over Mars Hill College. But fellow freshman running back Darius Ramsey rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries and added a 20-yard catch.
"It says a lot about how much we know the game of football," Mitchell said. "Darius knows the game of football just as much as I know the game of football. The offensive line gave us great holes. We just did what we could, hit the holes and take care of the football. It's a faster game, but it's the same game."
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HERD COACH Doc Holliday didn't have to look far to find examples of taking unheralded opponents too lightly.
The Herd's own Conference USA did just fine.
C-USA took it on the chin a little last Saturday. Texas State upset Houston, 30-13, while the University of Tennessee at Martin stunned Memphis, 20-17. Add Big East team Pittsburgh's 31-17 loss to Youngstown State, and Holliday had plenty to discuss.
Western Carolina beat Mars Hill but that's the only team the Catamounts have beaten in nearly a calendar year. WCU's only win in 2011 came Sept. 10 versus Mars Hill.
"If you don't prepare, you lose," he said. "Sunday, when we walked in here, the first thing we talked about was Houston and Texas State, we talked about Memphis and UT-Martin and we talked about Pitt and Youngstown State. That's just three examples, there are probably some others out there and there'll be some examples this Sunday. We just have to make sure it isn't us."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.