Marshall football: Cato doing work with his legs, arm
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato made plenty of plays with his feet in the Thundering Herd's season-opening win over Miami University, but they didn't all have to do with running forward.
Aside from the 59 yards he gained on the ground, some of those scrambles led to some pretty nifty touchdown passes.
He'll try to keep those feet moving this Saturday when the Thundering Herd (1-0) hosts Gardner-Webb (1-0) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
With less than 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Cato rolled to his right and, on the run, zipped a 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Craig Wilkins. On Marshall's next drive, he stared down a RedHawks rush and, off his back foot, threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gator Hoskins.
"It just happened so fast, we kept moving the ball, running the ball and running the ball, everything I was doing was just basically off running the ball," Cato said. "The defense was sucking up, so I was trying to make plays with my legs and keep the play alive and make a play."
While it looked like Cato was freestyling as he scrambled around the backfield to find his receivers, that wasn't exactly the case. Receiver Tommy Shuler, Cato's teammate since high school, said the junior quarterback will scamper back and forth, throwing on the run, on the field before the game.
"When we go out there and first get to the stadium on Saturdays, we'll go out there and he'll do scramble drills," Shuler said. "He'll run back and forth, throw the ball off his back foot, just playing around and getting his arm warmed up. Going out there and playing around showed up in the game."
His sliding, however, could use some work. Some of his attempts when he took off from the pocket were less than graceful. Reporters joked with him during Monday interviews, asking if he was going over to the baseball team to get some pointers. Cato said how he gets to the turf isn't his biggest concern. It's simply getting to the turf without taking a hit, saving his body and giving some of the Herd's more effective runners a chance to do their work.
"I played baseball, but I never slid," he said. "As long as I get down and nobody's touching me, I'm OK with that."
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MARSHALL COACH Doc Holliday remained impressed with the way his offensive line played against the RedHawks.
"My opinion hasn't changed," he said. "I thought they took that game over in the second half. Anytime you can run it for 300 plus yards that offensive line has had a good day.
"What was great to see was that not only the five starters went in and played well, but Clint Van Horn came in and played extremely well," he added. "The freshman center (Michael Selby) went in and got his feet wet. We're getting a lot more than just the starting five."
According to Marshall's stats, center Chris Jasperse played the most, taking 83 of the team's 94 total snaps. Eight linemen played at least 38 snaps. Right tackle Garrett Scott led the unit with six knockdowns, with Jasperse adding 5.5 and left tackle Gage Niemeyer adding 4.5.
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DEFENSIVE coordinator Chuck Heater reiterated this week's message to the team that, despite its Football Championship Subdivision ranking, the Runnin' Bulldogs still weren't a team to overlook. Much of that, he said, has to do with their quarterback, redshirt junior Lucas Beatty.
Beatty completed 22 of 31 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in Gardner-Webb's comeback win over Furman. He not only threw the game-winning touchdown to Kenny Cook with 9:49 left in the game, he also hit Seth Cranfill on a two-point conversion to make it 28-21.
Aside from Beatty's talent, Heater also admired his grit.
"The quarterback is really a tough, competitive guy," Heater said. "He got hit a lot and took them down in the fourth quarter to win the game. He was getting hit high and low and just kept his eyes down the field and made some outstanding plays. It always impresses me when a quarterback is tough and doesn't get distracted by the rush."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.