HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Almost every player and every team in the country would love to play now 0-8 Southern Miss.
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles were penalized because their left tackle lined up in the backfield. Their quarterback was running for his life and, once, batted his own batted pass down. The team entered the game slotted No. 177 nationally in the Sagarin computer rankings. It lost to Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium by a whopping 61-13 count in a Conference USA meeting before an announced crowd of 20,398.
Of all the players that desire facing Southern Miss, though, there's probably none as desirous as MU quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Which is understandable. See, not only do the Golden Eagles bring forth good results for Cato, but fond memories as well.
It was two years ago, in 2011, when Cato, then a freshman, had his breakout game.
"It was my first home game," Cato said on Saturday. "I had my first touchdown pass. There was a lot of excitement.
"I remember the great seniors, like Vinny Curry. I threw a touchdown to Aaron Dobson."
On that day he threw for three touchdowns and rallied the Herd from a 17-3 deficit to a 26-20 victory.
On Saturday, Cato had four touchdown passes in the first quarter. Marshall was on pace to score 112 points before settling for about half of that. The junior had five TD passes on a 21-of-28 day for 262 yards with no interceptions. He received a rest for the first time since the Sept. 7 Gardner-Webb game.
"With the exception of that one [fumble] he played well," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "I think we were 300-plus [yards] rushing and 300-plus passing. That balance, I believe, helped us. A lot of that was on [Cato]. He had some great checks.
"We had some calls that were actually throws, but he checked to runs. On a lot of the run-pass options he did a great job of getting us into the right call. He managed the game extremely well."
Essray Taliaferro appreciated one check in particular. It resulted in the back's 18-yard touchdown run.
"It was actually a pass," Taliaferro said. "[Cato] saw two high safeties and checked it. It was a brilliant call."
"He's grown up so much," Holliday said. "He's making great decisions and is a better leader. He's become a really solid quarterback."
Indeed, criticize Marshall if you wish. There have been losses that shouldn't have been losses. On Saturday, it finally displayed the killer instinct that's been missing for a while. But check the record books. Check the ones involving quarterbacks.
You'll see Cato hanging with Tony Petersen. You'll see his name listed with Byron Leftwich. You'll see him in career and single-season lists with the likes of Chad Pennington.