It's pretty tough to rack up more than 8,000 passing yards over two seasons as quietly as Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has. However, following his performance in a 31-20 victory over Maryland in Friday's Military Bowl, the junior should garner a lot more attention heading into next year.
Cato went 28-of-44 for 337 yards with three scores against the Terrapins. He finishes the 2013 campaign with 3,916 passing yards and 45 total touchdowns.
The Miami Central High product, a former three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, chose Marshall over Florida International in the class of 2011. Now, he’s primed to set Thundering Herd records with another big year. If he stays healthy next fall, Cato (10,176 career passing yards) is primed to leap Byron Leftwich (11,903) and Chad Pennington (13,143) to become the program’s all-time leading passer. And Cato hasn't exactly had Randy Moss to throw to, although fellow Miami Central graduate Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins, from Gainesville, have done their part. The tandem combined for 172 receiving yards and three scores against Maryland.
The Terps were behind the eight ball in field position thanks to some booming Marshall punts, but quarterback C.J. Brown did his best to keep Maryland close. The fifth-year junior went 14-of-24 for 197 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and he engineered a 99-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly eight minutes in the second half. Still, running back Essray Taliaferro put the Herd up for good with a seven-yard rushing touchdown with 12:05 to play.
With the non-power conferences set to lose star quarterbacks such as Fresno State's Derek Carr and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch after this season, Cato could become the next off-the-radar quarterback to generate some unlikely Heisman Trophy buzz. Come 2014, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will no longer be a part of Conference USA, and Marshall could be in position to take control of the league. Hoskins will be gone, as will leading rusher Taliaferro, but coach Doc Holliday has brought in plenty of talent to offset the losses.
The Thundering Herd's success will be predicated on how well the defense can shore up the secondary, which looked far from perfect against the Terrapins. But Cato should be able to put up huge numbers. A bowl victory against an ACC (and soon to be Big Ten) foe certainly provides some nice momentum entering the offseason. Bowl schedule: Matchups, dates and coverage from every 2013-14 pairing