HUNTINGTON - Like any good pass-catcher in a "red zone" play, Eric Frohnapfel looked for an opening, prepared to catch a football suddenly coming his way.
The Marshall tight end was prepared, yes, but he wasn't expectant. He was heading to the left side of the back of the end zone; quarterback Rakeem Cato was flushed out and heading down the right side.
And then came the football. It was a pass properly destined for a 6-foot-6 target who had to jump to get it. Nobody wearing a blue West Virginia jersey was going to reach it.
"It was a 'go' play and it was 'trips' [formation], so I had to get to the other side of the field," Frohnapfel said. "When I started running the route I was thinking, 'Ah, you know, this ball's not coming to me.' And then Cato started rolling out and I turned around and realized I was wide open, nobody was around me. I was thinking, 'I hope he looks this way.'
"He had kind rolled to [the other] side of the field and I thought, 'He's not going to look all the way back this way.' And I really think it was a great read for him to look back that far, read the other side of the field and see me open back there, and then it was a good toss. Close my eyes and hope I catch it when it's that easy."
When Frohnapfel came down with the ball, it didn't matter that the game was a lopsided rout entering its final minute. Something else mattered for the Thundering Herd and its long-sputtering offense.
Cato showed he is growing up.
Numbers-wise, it was Cato's 38th completion in his 54th and final attempt. He had hit the 400-yard mark before the play, and the 11-yard completion gave him 413.
Again, something more important came out of the play, something that Herd fans can expect in the coming weeks, including Saturday's contest against Western Carolina. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., with Fox College Sports Atlantic (Suddenlink digital 509) televising.
"I think last year, being a freshman, he's doing the basics," Frohnapfel said. "And as an offense, we were much more basic last year. And he's shown so much progression this year - not just when he's back there reading the play, but when the play breaks down. He's shown a lot of poise keeping the play alive.
"Multiple times on Saturday, he made some plays downfield when he could easily have taken a sack, run out of bounds for a 1-yard gain, something like that."