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Grant Traylor: MU's Florida players meet familiar faces Saturday

Oct. 24, 2012 @ 12:10 AM

Marshall University wide receiver Tommy Shuler walked into Monday's football player interviews sporting his jacket from his time with the Miami Central High School Rockets.

Beside him was Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato, his teammate at Central.

When Marshall matches up with UCF at 8 p.m., Saturday, it will be a Central reunion of sorts. The Knights have five Rockets on their roster as well: wide receivers Jeff Godfrey and Josh Reese, defensive linemen Miles Pace and Jose Jose and defensive back Jamar McClain.

Still, the Miami Central duo for the Herd said that familiarity means little in this rivalry matchup.

"You have to set the pride away," Cato said. "At the end of the day, they're at Central Florida and we're at Marshall. The high school junk gets put out of the way. We're trying to win a ballgame."

Shuler agreed.

"I don't really care about all that," Shuler said. "There will be a little intensity. They'll try and get at us and get in our head. I just want to win, though."

Cato and Shuler have statistically blown up on the national scale this year for the Thundering Herd.

Cato leads the nation in passing yards with 2,651 through seven games while Shuler is second nationally in receptions with 69.

But, the Herd sits at just 3-4 heading into the matchup after Saturday's 59-24 win at Southern Miss, who took UCF to double-overtime in Orlando the week before.

Marshall has yet to beat UCF since joining Conference USA in 2005 and the duo is hoping they can get the win for the university and for Huntington -- and, perhaps, win bragging rights along the way.

Cato and Shuler are not the only players with familiarity as hometown crossovers are the norm in the matchup.

From the Homestead, Fla., area, Marshall cornerback Keith Baxter will be trying to stop fellow Homestead native and UCF wide receiver J.J. Worton. Baxter went to school at Homestead High School while Worton graduated from South Dade, along with UCF H-back (hybrid between tight end and fullback) Dontravious Floyd.

The "Battle of Lucy Street" -- the annual contest between Homestead and South Dade -- will extend to Huntington's Fifth Avenue.

NEW ORLEANS BOUND?: ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards both have Marshall heading to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for a matchup with Louisiana-Monroe.

The game would be extremely intriguing because it would pit two of the premier statistical quarterbacks in the nation in Cato and Louisiana-Monroe's Kolton Browning, who led the WarHawks to a win at Arkansas and close losses to Auburn and Baylor.

It's way too early to tell who will be playing who, but this one was fun to see when it popped up.

Of course, the Herd has aspirations of the Liberty Bowl, which is the bowl berth for the Conference USA champion. Marshall can go a long way toward earning a berth in the C-USA title game with a win this week at home over East Division favorite UCF.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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