Cato is Marshall's second athlete to be named C-USA's top player at his sport. Goalkeeper Daniel Withrow shared the honor in soccer.
Grooms, who joined the Herd program after sitting out 2011 as a nonqualifier, rushed for 737 yards and eight touchdowns, including scoring runs of 69, 64 and 45 yards. He also caught eight passes for 50 yards and another score.
Marshall never won the freshman award in the MAC. Other than Moss, freshman winning in the Southern Conference era were running back Ron Lear (1979), kicker Barry Childers (1980), running back Ron Darby (1986), kicker Dewey Klein (1988), defensive back Roger Johnson (1991), defensive back Alandus Sims (1992) and Pennington (1995).
In other C-USA awards, Southern Methodist running back Zach Line was named the offensive player of the year, an award separated from the MVP. Line topped 1,000 rushing yards for the third straight year and has 1,207 entering the Hawaii Bowl.
Central Florida took the defensive honor with safety Kemal Ishmael and the special teams honor with kick returner Quincy McDuffie. McDuffie became the 17th player to return two kickoffs for touchdown in the same game, victimizing Marshall in late October.
Tulsa's Bill Blankenship was named C-USA coach of the year after leading the Golden Hurricane to the league championship. He is 14-2 in conference play in his two seasons as a head coach.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.