Chuck Landon: Cato's player of the week award overdue
The honor appeared overdue.
It seemed as though Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato should have won the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week award long before the 11th week of the season.
Yet, it didn't happen until Monday when he shared the weekly award with East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.
Why so long? Why so late? Why so overdue?
Perhaps, because the planets, the circumstances, the nuances all had to align perfectly into the correct configuration.
In Cato's case, that meant the sophomore quarterback had to have a big game. But not just any prolific performance. It had to come in a win. It had to come in a C-USA game. And, most of all, it had to come in a C-USA victory, which didn't involve sharing the spotlight with any other Marshall player.
Oh, yeah, there was one other ingredient.
Cato had to get injured.
Although no one realized he was hurt, it seems Cato getting injured in the second half and playing through the adversity without making a big deal about it was the cosmic catalyst for finally winning the award.
Oh, sure, leading Marshall to a 38-28 win over Memphis Saturday at Edwards Stadium by completing 34 of 44 passes for 341 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions played a huge part in the honor.
Obviously, Cato wouldn't have won otherwise.
Yet, it seems the "perseverance factor" was the clincher.
"I was nicked up," admitted Cato. "I got hit a couple of times. My right hand was kind of messed up. In the third quarter, my right hand got jammed. I couldn't really throw the ball. I was throwing in pain."
It happened on a first-and-10 play at the 50-yard line with 10:12 remaining in the third quarter. Memphis' Ricky Hunter blew into the backfield from his defensive end position and used his 6-foot-3, 290-pound frame to sack Cato for an 11-yard loss.
"I got slammed real hard to the ground on a sack," remembered Cato. "After that, my right hand just got numb. When I got sacked, my arm hit the turf. My hand went numb. I played a couple more plays and it still was numb.
"So, then, I had trouble gripping the ball."
That's probably because Cato completed a 15-yard pass to Jazz King on the very next play. In fact, Cato went 4-for-4 for 32 yards and even connected with fullback Devon Johnson on a 9-yard touchdown pass after the injury.
All because Cato compensated for his lack of velocity by putting air under his passes and using more touch.
It's called finesse.
It's also called persevering because Cato's hand was bothering him. Besides his arm hitting the turf, the back of Cato's right hand also slammed into the unforgiving artificial surface.
Yet, Cato still managed to complete 4 of 7 passes in the fourth quarter for 40 yards, including the game-clinching 28-yard touchdown pass to Davonte Allen.
Not bad for a quarterback with a maimed throwing hand.
But, now of course, there's concern about Cato's status heading into Marshall's game against UAB at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
"I'm getting treatment on it right now and, hopefully, it will get better," said Cato. "It's getting better right now. I had treatment Sunday night and on Monday morning. And, then, I had another treatment on Monday.
"So, it should get better."
Just in time to defend his Player of the Week award.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.