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Marshall football: Rice coach says Cato, Manziel are similar

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Rice football Coach David Bailiff offered about as high of praise as he could Tuesday for Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato. He compared last year's Conference USA MVP - who will lead the Thundering Herd against the Owls in Saturday's noon C-USA title game (ESPN2) - to last year's Heisman Trophy winner.

"He's very similar to what Johnny Manziel can do at (Texas) A&M when he comes out of the pocket," Bailiff said. "He extends the plays, he allows receivers to get separation and he's very accurate throwing the ball when he runs."

The Owls (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) faced "Johnny Football" for two quarters in their season opener Aug. 31. Manziel had to sit the first two quarters as punishment for his offseason autograph flap. When he did enter the game after halftime, he threw for 94 yards and three touchdowns on 6-of-8 passing and gained 19 yards on six carries. What was a 28-21 halftime lead for the Aggies ended up a 52-31 win.

Cato remains a standout passer. He's thrown for 3,314 yards and completed 59.4 percent of his passes. His 34 touchdown throws are the seventh-highest total in team history (his 37 touchdowns last season tied him for third-best) and he's thrown just eight interceptions.

Yet Cato also has evolved as a runner. He's fourth on the team with 254 rushing yards and is tied for third on the Herd with six rushing touchdowns.

"I think it's preparation, but also an innate ability to have an internal time clock for when they need to get out of the pocket and where the pressure is coming from," Bailiff said. "But you don't get as good as (Cato) is without a lot of hard work.

"I think he's got that same feel of when somebody's about to hit him from behind," he added. "He knows how to step forward and circle out of the pocket and he has the innate ability to do that. That's what the great one's have."

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TUESDAY'S C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP coaches' conference call allowed for an unexpected pre-game meeting between Bailiff and Herd Coach Doc Holliday. Holliday hadn't hung up the phone before Bailiff was introduced.

"You've done a tremendous job," Holliday told Bailiff.

"What you've done in the last two years, I hope people realize what you have done, because you've done a tremendous job."

"Well, thank you," Bailiff replied.

"I tell you, I put the film on, Doc ... holy smokes, how much has your quarterback developed? Wow, is he playing well."

"So is yours," Holliday responded. "He's grown up a lot. It's fun to watch guys do what you ask them to do, isn't it?"

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HOLLIDAY WOULDN'T guarantee that junior corner Darryl Roberts would be ready for Saturday's game after hurting his ankle last Friday versus East Carolina, but he said was a good chance. Roberts left the game in the third quarter.

Holliday praised his entire defense's pass coverage against East Carolina, which featured the most prolific quarterback in Conference USA this season, senior Shane Carden.

"Whenever you play an offense like East Carolina, you've got to take away the easy-access throws," Holliday said.

"If you give them the easy-access throws, you have major issues. Our corners, our secondary and our linebackers have been able to do that against that offense, which is why we were successful."

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CAPTAINS FOR Saturday's game will be Cato, tight end Gator Hoskins, corner Monterius Lovett and defensive lineman James Rouse. It is the first time in 13 games this season that the same four players will serve as captains in consecutive weeks.

"Those guys did a tremendous job last week and I'm sure they'll do the same this week," Holliday said.

It's the fourth selection for Hoskins, the sixth for Lovett, the seventh for Rouse and the eighth for Cato. There has not been one week this season where at least one of this week's four captains has been named a captain.

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


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