However, the bigger story was his progression as a quarterback in making reads and seeing the defense. Cato got the Herd in the correct run-pass options in offensive coordinator Bill Legg's scheme and the Marshall offense finished at 7,005 yards of total offense for the season, 500.4 yards a game.
While the season included marquee wins over Maryland in the Military Bowl and a 59-28 win over East Carolina in the regular-season finale to clinch the Conference USA East Division title, it was another game that Cato said is his lasting memory of the 2013 season.
He noted a 45-34 win over Tulsa on Nov. 14, 2013 - the 43rd anniversary of the tragic Marshall airplane crash that killed all 75 members of the Herd football team's traveling party following Marshall's 17-14 loss at East Carolina in 1970.
The game marked the first time the team had played a road game on Nov. 14 since that 1970 crash, and the team elected to wear "75" decals on their helmets in honor of the victims.
After building a big lead early, adversity struck the Herd and the team fell behind in the fourth quarter, but Cato led his team on a pair of late fourth-quarter scoring drives to clinch the win. He finished with a career-high 456 yards passing and five touchdowns.
"There were so many emotions going on the entire day with the plane crash ceremony going on in the morning," Cato said. "We had that '75' sticker on our helmets and we had to overcome that adversity because there was no way we could lose on that day for those who went before us. That was the most memorable moment for me."
The 10-win season was the first since Leftwich led Marshall to an 11-2 record in 2002 and, with Cato returning, helped solidify Marshall as a potential Top 25 team heading into 2014.
Not only did the season earn the respect of the former Herd quarterbacks and those surrounding college football, it also earned the respect of those in the sports profession around the state with the Hardman Award honor over several other high-caliber athletes.
Musgrave, a former Bridgeport standout, was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a second-team All-America choice who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies but opted to return for his senior season in 2014.
Switzer, a former George Washington athlete who won two Kennedy Awards, tied an NCAA record with five punt return touchdowns while earning All-America and All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors as a true freshman with the Tar Heels.
Falk became the first West Virginia Conference basketball player named NCAA Division II National Player of the Year after leading the Hilltoppers to 33-2 record and the Elite Eight.
Silva was the unanimous Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year for the nation's No. 12-ranked team and conference champion. She also was a pro draft selection.