Cato, Herd set for takeoff
HUNTINGTON -- It's amazing what a difference a couple of years can make for Marshall University's offense.
The last time Marshall graced M.M. Roberts Stadium to take on Southern Miss, the Thundering Herd football team was in its first Conference USA road game under new head coach Doc Holliday.
To say it was forgettable would be a bit of an understatement.
Southern Miss won, 41-16.
"I don't have a lot of memories about that," Holliday said. "That was not a good day for us."
Marshall fell behind 28-0 at the half and quarterback Brian Anderson was 4-of-13 for 16 yards in the first half before being benched in favor of A.J. Graham, who was injured late in the game.
Fast forward to the 2012 season when Marshall (2-4, 1-1 C-USA) visits Southern Miss (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) for a 7 p.m., Saturday, game televised on the CBS Sports Network (Huntington cable Ch. 174) and the Herd possesses one of the top passing offenses in the nation behind quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Cato and the Herd go up against a Southern Miss defense that is allowing the fewest passing yards in C-USA at 212.3 per game.
"Most of the teams that they've played, they don't really match our offense," Cato said. "We are basically looking at personnel right now -- seeing how they play and how they run around the field."
Marshall has gone up against some sound defensive teams in terms of guarding the pass already this season.
Purdue came into the Marshall contest allowing fewer than 190 yards per game to the opposing pass offense, but Marshall's Tommy Shuler had 19 catches for 200 yards as Cato went on to throw for 439 yards in the loss.
Shuler said the Herd players get excited each time they hear about another team boasting of solid numbers against the pass.
It's all part of a confidence the Herd has built in amassing 396 yards per game through the air.
"Everywhere we've went, the pass was great for us. We feel like it's not going to stop right now," Shuler said. "We could go against LSU, and I don't think you could stop our pass. It's the chemistry we've got and the quarterback we've got. We know we're coming at you, and if you dwell too much on the pass, we're going to hit you and run it down your throat. It's a pick-and-choose option."
Much like what Cato said, part of Southern Miss' vaunted numbers can be attributed more to style of play than success against the pass.
The Golden Eagles are still allowing the opposition to complete 65 percent of their passes and opponents have thrown for 13 touchdowns on the year.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez lit up the Southern Miss defense for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns, but the rest of the Golden Eagles' opponents have had to stick to the ground.
Louisville went to Hattiesburg boasting of a high-octane attack, but the Cardinals were forced to ground it due to a monsoon that was dumping inches of water on M.M. Roberts Stadium during the game.
According to Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson, this week's game will be a stiff test for his defense because they will have to step outside their norm as they get back to the C-USA norm.
"We've been in five of six games with two tight ends, fullbacks and all that," Johnson said. "It's going to be a lot different now. We're going to have to change gears -- adjust to it -- but I do think we're going to get more consistency and carry over week to week now."
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