ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Rakeem Cato figured it was only a matter of time. He just didn't know how much time he'd have left.
The Marshall quarterback stood on the sideline for nearly half of the third quarter and one play into the fourth, watching Maryland drive 99 yards in 17 plays to grab its first lead of the Military Bowl. But the junior, who has studied former great Thundering Herd signal-callers like Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, went back out and succeeded in the area that he wanted to emulate those players the most.
Cato, the game's MVP, led the Herd on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to give it a 31-20 win over the Terrapins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, his second bowl win in three seasons as Marshall's starting quarterback.
"I tell the guys all the time, big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games," Cato said. "I just wanted to come out here and lay everything on the line and bring my team to a victory."
Cato got the Herd (10-4) out to a fast start, throwing two first-quarter touchdowns. But Marshall couldn't cross the goal line again for more than two quarters. Both teams settled for field goals in the second quarter and neither team scored in the third, though the Terrapins' long drive to take a 20-17 lead began in the third.
It wasn't easy to watch the Terrapins grind down the clock and put the Herd on its heels, but Cato said the key was not to let his emotions trip him up.
"I stayed patient on the sidelines, kept my teammates motivated and to be ready to get back on the field," he said. "I told the guys that when we get back on the field following their drive, that we have to capitalize. I saw that they were able to keep us off the field from time to time, but in the end, we just need to have the mindset to get on the field and score."
Score, the Herd did, with Cato leading the way. On the go-ahead drive, Cato completed four of six passes for 52 yards. Running back Essray Taliaferro ended the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. Later in the fourth, Cato threw his third touchdown pass, an eight-yarder to tight end Gator Hoskins.
"He definitely was a good quarterback," Maryland defensive tackle Andre Monroe said. "He was very shifty. That was one of his biggest assets. There were a few times we would get him back (in the pocket) and he was able to wiggle or get the ball away just in time.
Cato's second bowl win as Marshall's starter pushed him up the record books as well. He finished with 337 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-44 passing. He tied Marshall's single-season touchdown pass record of 39, which he now shares with Pennington. He also took over second place from Leftwich, an honorary captain for Friday's game, in career touchdown passes. Cato now has 91. Cato also is now one of three Marshall quarterbacks, along with Pennington and Leftwich, to break 10,000 passing yards for his career. He now has 10,176.
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