Maturing Cato ready for challenge of UCF
Rakeem Cato is expecting the worst.
Chalk that up as another sign of maturity in Marshall's sophomore quarterback.
Although UCF isn't really much of a blitzing defense, Cato is preparing for the Knights to come after him.
Maybe that will happen when Marshall hosts rival UCF in a Conference USA East Division showdown Saturday in Edwards Stadium.
Or maybe not.
Either way, Cato is taking the Boy Scout approach.
"I'm expecting them to blitz," he said. "I talked to Coach Petersen (quarterback coach Tony Petersen) and Coach Legg (offensive coordinator Bill Legg) and we're preparing ourselves for the worst.
"All we're trying to do now is look for their blitzes and the off things they do."
Never mind that multiple blitzes are uncharacteristic of UCF's usual defensive philosophy.
"Blitzing is not their type of game," said Cato. "I feel like they're a quarter team, a sound team. They like Cover Three (three deep defensive backs and one high safety) and live with the man."
Not that the Knights don't blitz at all.
"They do some corner blitzes and stuff like that," said Cato. "They blitz. Everybody blitzes. But I don't see them blitzing. They're not a blitzing team.
"I mean, they should try to come after me. I hope so."
That's because Cato believes UCF would be doing him a favor by blitzing.
"Yeah, I do," he said. "It would allow me to take shots down the field."
Remember Cato's 72-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gator Hoskins against Tulsa? Well, guess what. It came against the blitz.
That's why Cato would look forward to UCF blitzes.
Which is the very reason UCF might not blitz Cato much.
But that doesn't mean the Knights won't come after Marshall's quarterback. On the contrary, whether UCF blitzes or not, look for one of the Knights to try to hit Cato on each and every play.
UCF will try to rattle Cato's cage.
There is no doubt about it.
Because it worked last year.
Remember Marshall's 16-6 loss to UCF during a monsoon at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla.? Well, somewhat washed away by the deluge is the fact that the Knights managed to get into Cato's head.
Besides coming unglued offensively to the tune of completing only 11 of 29 passes for a meager 87 yards, Cato also suffered an emotional meltdown.
After yet another ineffective possession, Cato refused to get on the phones to Petersen in the press box. As a result, A.J. Graham became Marshall's starting quarterback in the next game.
That's how thoroughly the Knights got in Cato's head.
There's no doubt UCF will try to play similar head games Saturday. After all, these are two programs who really don't like each other.
"They don't," agreed Cato. "Our last win was 2004. We've got to get the win. They're leaving for the Big East after this season. We've got to win a ball game. We've got to stay focused. This is our last shot at them. We've got to take them down.
"We're 0-1 in last shots. We're 0-1 against WVU. That was our last shot against them. So, this is our second chance to knock an opponent off with our last shot against them."
Will that happen? Will the Herd say farewell by ending a seven-game losing streak to UCF?
I think so.
Marshall will win, 37-31.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at email@example.com.