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Marshall football notebook: Nation's leading passer can run in a pinch

HUNTINGTON - It wasn't just Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato's arm that put him atop the stat sheet after last Saturday's loss to Ohio. His legs did the same.

Cato, who threw for a Marshall-record 44 completions and career-high 432 yards against the Bobcats, also led the Thundering Herd in rushing with 32 yards on six carries. But he never imagined he'd end a game as the team's top runner.

"No," he said. "I'm not a running quarterback. That's not part of my game. Things happen, so I had to take advantage of it."

His 32 yards against the Bobcats matched his total for all of 2011, accomplished on 57 carries. He has 12 carries in three games this season. Yet, just because Cato rarely takes off from the pocket, that doesn't mean Marshall Coach Doc Holliday wants him to completely avoid it.

When the Thundering Herd (1-2, 0-0 C-USA) visits Rice (1-2, 0-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CSS/WCHS telecast), Holliday wants Cato to pull down the ball and go if he needs to.

"If it's there I want him to run," he said. "He did do it a couple times. He ran for a critical first down last weekend. We don't want him running all the time and that's why we've changed some of the things we're doing. He has to do what he has to do to move the chains and get the first down."

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HERD SENIOR Andre Snipes-Booker earned spots on the CFPA Special Teams Award and Jet Award watch lists this preseason for his work as a kick and punt returner. So far this year, he's been stuck in the hangar.

Snipes-Booker is tied for 55th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in punt returns at 6.43 yards an attempt. He finished 20th in the FBS last season with 10.83 yards an attempt. His kick return yardage is down as well. Last year he was 40th in the FBS with 24.82 yards a return. This year he's 58th with 20.91 yards a return.

But he feels there's a big return just around the bend.

"It's just one block away, a couple of seams away," Snipes-Booker said. "I'm going to get me one. It's getting closer. Each game, I feel the momentum. The game's starting to slow down more. I'm comfortable and confident and I'm just waiting on my time."

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RICE'S RECORD over the last two years - 5-10 coming into Saturday's game - might not show it, but Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon said the Owls are no easy team to line up against. The Herd beat Rice 24-20 last year, but the Owls outgained Marshall 361-328 and picked up one more first down (20-19).

"I told the kids (Tuesday) that, schematically, I thought they were the toughest team to defend," Rippon said, "and I think they picked up right where they left off."

Rippon has known Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan since the two were at Syracuse in 1993 - Rippon as a first-year linebackers coach and Reagan as a senior captain at center.

"They do a great job with formations and groupings and who they're reading on the option play, with numbers in the box and whether they're going to throw it or run it," Rippon said. "It presents some problems."

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MARSHALL'S GAME at Purdue on Sept. 29 has been moved up 15 minutes to a 3:15 p.m. kickoff. According to Purdue, the change was made for television considerations and agreed upon by Purdue, the Big Ten and the Big Ten Network. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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