MU's Cato needs help on offense
HUNTINGTON - After Marshall fell to Ohio 27-24 in the "Battle of the Bell" here on Saturday night, the most intriguing aspect of the postgame press conference centered on Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Rather, it centered on his arm. And whether it was still attached to his body.
Cato threw an unbelievable 65 times in the game, completing 44 for 432 yards with three touchdowns and one pick.
Sixty-five passes. Some kids get carpal tunnel from texting.
"I never thought I'd throw that many times," Cato said afterward, "but I felt good. Left it all on the field."
Indeed, he did. The guy not only threw for 432, he was the team's leading rusher with 32 yards. Which is the rub. It's why Marshall is 1-2 today instead of 2-1. It's why the Thundering Herd is now staring at 1-4 before the Tulsa home game on Oct. 6.
Doc Holliday, his coaches and the rest of the offense have to help their true sophomore. At this level of college football, you cannot put it all on a true sophomore.
Look at Saturday night's winning team. Ohio rushed for 199 yards; it passed for 200. Marshall passed for 432; it rushed for 59.
"We've been a very balanced football team," said Ohio coach Frank Solich. "We have a wide-open offense capable of throwing 50 times a game if we want to do that, but we really don't want to do that."
Marshall shouldn't either.
"We had to do whatever to try and win," Holliday said. "I'm proud of [Cato]. He's hurting right now. We take what the defense gives us. If we continue to move the ball, I don't care how. But at some point you've got to be able to run the ball."
That point was Saturday. Travon Van could net but 15 yards. His long gain: 6 yards.
What's disappointing for Marshall is, still, the Thundering Herd was in the game until the end. The game was terrific, played before a very nice crowd of 33,436, on a beautiful day. Those fans were vocal.
And MU's opportunity was there. The chance at respect was there. Fans and opposing teams know Ohio went to State College and defeated Penn State. Holliday's program could have taken a nice step.
MU's coaches could have helped. They could have rolled the dice a little more. It was Ohio that went deep on fourth-and-5 for a score.
Marshall could have taken a shot downfield in the first half on a third-and-1. Instead there was a pitch back to Van, a loss of a yard and a punt. MU, with momentum slipping in the first half, could have gambled on a fourth-and-1 at its own 41 in the first half. And it certainly could have given Cato a shot at the end of the first half with 43 seconds left instead of running out the clock. That was, understandably, met with a chorus of boos.
In sum, sometimes you just gotta go for it. Especially when you're trying to make a mark.
After the game, Marshall fans streamed out disappointed. The home team's beleaguered defense showed some progress. At times it looked downright physical, playing against a talented, experienced team and fine quarterback in Tyler Tettleton.
Yet MU lost. The opportunity was lost.
The good news: Cato's arm is intact.
That arm just needs some help.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.