HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The spark the Marshall football team's offense needed Saturday night versus Miami University came from an unusual source - quarterback Rakeem Cato's feet.
The Thundering Herd had suffered through an abnormally quiet first quarter. It didn't just fail to score a point. It failed to record a single first down and trailed 7-0 to start the second quarter. But on the third play of the Herd's first possession in that period, Cato scrambled up field for a 15-yard gain on third and 8, finally moving the chains and shaking Marshall out of its doldrums.
From that play on, the Herd returned to its old ways, pummeling the RedHawks for nearly 600 yards of total offense in Marshall's 52-14 win.
Cato has never considered himself a running quarterback. His 4,201 passing yards and 31 rushing yards from last season are a testament to that. Against Miami, though, he had 42 rushing yards by halftime.
"Everybody's not a running quarterback," Cato said. "You can force a slow quarterback to run the ball. I had to. That was my read, I just stuck with it and it paid off for me."
It paid off for the entire offense. Marshall gained 304 yards on the ground, led by Steward Butler's 107 yards on 17 carries and Essray Taliaferro's 91 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Cato finished the game with 59 yards on nine runs and added 253 yards and five touchdowns on 22-of-34 passing. It was the third five-touchdown game of his career, matching his 2012 performances against Purdue and East Carolina.
The Herd finished the night with 591 yards of total offense and 34 first downs, numbers made even more impressive considering Marshall gained just 11 yards and no first downs in the first quarter.
"I think we came out in the second half and wanted to run the football better," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "We got behind the sticks a bit in the first half. We had some early three-and-outs. We weren't patient enough with our run-pass option early and we got to that in the second half."
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RAHEEM WAITERS showed a nose for the football during preseason scrimmages and the junior linebacker proved that sense was still strong against Miami. The Quincy native and Riverside High graduate's 27-yard interception return for a touchdown was the final exclamation point on the Herd's rout of the RedHawks.
And it wasn't much different from his two picks, including one for a touchdown, he racked up during the Herd's second preseason scrimmage.
"It was a call where I read the quarterback's eyes and move with him," Waiters said. "I read the quarterback, went that way and he just threw it right to me.