HUNTINGTON - Perhaps most telling about the benching of quarterback Rakeem Cato in favor of A.J. Graham was not Marshall coach Doc Holliday's explanation of that move.
Maybe it was his explanation of the situation at running back.
A question was posed later in Holliday's press conference Tuesday about the running-back duo of Tron Martinez and Travon Van, and whether Martin Ward and Essray Taliaferro could get some carries.
Holliday's answer, in part: "Tron and Travon - and Travon, he's nursing a couple of little [injuries] - those are our best backs, and we're going to play them."
A few minutes before, Holliday announced that Graham will start in the Thundering Herd's upcoming game against Rice. The choice of words was different, a departure from how the second-year coach usually describes personnel moves.
"We've got certain standards and expectations that we expect every player to live up to," Holliday said. "And if they don't, they sit and watch with me and the other guy plays. And A.J. will start Saturday."
Holliday did not want to go into whether the move was prompted by Cato's play last weekend at Central Florida, his conduct on the sideline or a combination of things. But Bright House Sports Network cameras did capture Cato in an agitated state.
Cato struggled in the 16-6 loss, going 11-of-29 for 87 yards. He lost one fumble early in the second quarter, but it did not result in UCF points. He did not throw an interception, an accomplishment of sorts in the relentless rain.
He was plagued by an ineffective running attack and a substantial number of dropped passes. The latter was understandable - the wet pigskin was as slippery as, well, a wet pig's skin.
Whatever the reason for the change, Graham is the man, and the sophomore will try to replicate his brief, shining moment from 2010. In a 41-16 loss at Southern Mississippi, Graham went 10-of-12 for 95 yards but was injured while leading what would be the Herd's only touchdown drive.
A high ankle sprain kept him out the rest of the season and still hampered the Tallahassee, Fla., native in the spring. In August, Graham beat out Eddie Sullivan and Blake Frohnapfel for the No. 2 spot, riding his strong arm and ability to execute zone-read running plays.
Graham said the change was announced Sunday at the team's meetings.
"It just puts a lot of pressure on the defense when there's a quarterback who can run as well as throw," Graham said. "Make right decisions, and basically putting more pressure on the defense.
"I've been running [the zone read] since high school, and it's no different here, just a couple of tweaks here and there with the way Coach [Bill] Legg runs it, wants it run. For the most part, I think I can get it done."
Holliday said he is not giving up on Cato, saying he could even enter the Rice game.
"Rakeem Cato's going to be an excellent quarterback," Holliday said. "There's a chance he'll play Saturday; we'll see how it goes. I think he'll be an excellent quarterback here before his career's over."
Graham played the fourth quarter this season in Ohio, going 2-of-8 for 43 yards, with a long of 33.