Pivotal game for Cato
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has said all the right things heading into this week's contest against Ohio.
"It's big for the whole team and for the community just to go out, have fun and get the win to bring the trophy back home," Cato said.
Make no mistake about it. Cato's words are genuine.
Part of his biggest evolution as a quarterback this offseason was becoming more of a leader, and he has put away the gaudy statistics of the 2012 season to focus more on getting the Herd wins on the field and a Conference USA championship.
But this? This game, this opponent. This is a bit different.
Cato is the ultimate competitor.
It's what won him the starting job as a true freshman over then-Marshall quarterback A.J. Graham and also what made him the Conference USA Most Valuable Player at season's end in 2012.
It's also the same trait that left him with tears in his eyes after last season's 27-24 loss to Ohio -- a game in which an incredible one-handed interception by Jelani Woseley put the caps on a late-game collapse by the Herd.
Add that to the Battle for the Bell in 2011 when the freshman Cato had one of his biggest struggles in a Marshall uniform, finishing 9-of-21 for 116 yards with four interceptions in a 44-7 loss to the Bobcats.
Cato said he has learned from those two games more than many of the games in his career and he is eager to put those lessons to the test this weekend.
For him, it's all about getting back to the basics of why he plays the game.
"Just going out and having fun," Cato said. "That's it. You play to have fun. We want to go hard every single play and make every play our best play, and we want to have fun."
The game is expected to have a large, raucous crowd and it will also be nationally-televised on ESPNews at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
Cato knows that those factors will cause a large adrenaline rush in the entire team, and with so many new players taking part in their first road game, it's on him to lead the team the right way.
"I just have to stay in the system and not get overwhelmed by the whole thing," Cato said. "I've got to go out and keep a level-head."
Perhaps that will be Cato's biggest challenge in preparation for Saturday's contest, given the circumstances of the previous two games.
One thing is for sure, though.
All eyes are on Cato for this game, and he knows that.
In fact, he invites that, as has been evidenced over his first two years with the program.
It's an aspect that makes this one of the more-anticipated games Cato has had during his career.
"I've got this game circled," Cato said. "I'm just ready to go out and bring that trophy back home."
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