HUNTINGTON - Marshall's football program has seen adversity with Memphis on the other side of the ball.
Serious, dire adversity.
Think back to last November, on a cold Thursday night at an eerily empty Liberty Bowl. The Thundering Herd arrived with a 4-6 record and no margin of error, and proceeded to err and err. When Rakeem Cato's fumble on a sack was returned for a Tiger touchdown, the Herd trailed 22-10 with 11:22 left in the game.
Marshall's only realistic option at quarterback at the time, Cato was sent back out to lead a season-saving comeback. A loss would have clinched a losing season, but such a loss to the 2-7 Tigers would have aggravated matters.
But Cato kept his cool and the Herd stormed back for a 23-22 victory. Actually, the comeback wasn't that dramatic, as the Herd needed just 5 minutes, 12 seconds to get those two touchdowns, and the defense then protected the lead over three Memphis possessions.
Cato knows he received a lot of help. When he came back on the field after the fumble, he did so at the Memphis 21-yard line after a long kickoff return, and handed off to Travon Van for an immediate touchdown run.
"We had a great running game," Cato recalled. "Tron [Martinez] and Travon, they ran the ball great, and the defense played really great."
Still, Cato completed one third-down pass on the go-ahead drive and, more important, signaled to his teammates that he had moved past his freshman difficulties. He led the Herd to a bowl-clinching victory over East Carolina the following week, and then to a win over Florida International in the bowl game.
"He handled it well. That was one of the great games he played," said receiver Tommy Shuler. "He was down, came out and got some drives together, got the offense moving, came out with the victory at a place where no one was, was quiet. That was a great turnaround."