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Chuck Landon: Hokies no worry for Marshall quarterback

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:18 AM

The very name makes most quarterbacks quake in their cleats.

Virginia Tech.

The Hokies.

Veteran coordinator Bud Foster's defense that just loves to gobble, gobble, gobble up quarterbacks.

That's what Marshall faces at noon Saturday in Lane Stadium at Blacksburg, Va.

Just ask Paul Carden.

East Carolina's star quarterback was sacked seven times, harassed into tossing three interceptions and completed only 19 of 31 passes for a meager 157 yards during Tech's 15-10 win in Greenville, N.C., last Saturday.

Remember Carden?

He's the guy who completed 38 of 47 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns in East Carolina's 65-59 double-overtime win over Marshall to end the 2012 season. So, we're not talking about a slouch.

And that leads to a pertinent question.

After seeing what happened to his contemporary last week, what is Marshall star quarterback Rakeem Cato's mindset heading into his first visit to Lane Stadium?

"We can't let the name 'Virginia Tech' get in the way," said Cato. "They're human. They're men. We're men. They put on their shoes like we put on our shoes. We just need to play ball."

Instead of being intimidated, the confident Cato actually is looking forward to playing against the Hokies' vaunted defense.

"It's great," said the 6-foot, 188-pound junior. "It's an opportunity for me to just go out there and play against a great defense.

"I've got to make sure my accuracy is on point and my decision-making is on point. ... just getting the ball out on time and not holding the ball too long in the pocket. I have to have a clock in the back of my head. ... when to run the ball or try to make a play."

Bill Legg, Marshall's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, calls it the "mashed potatoes factor."

"When I was at Purdue," said Legg, "Joe Tiller (head coach) said when his quarterback dropped back he would count, 'One potato, two potato, three potato. ...' If he reached four potato, it was going to be mashed potatoes."

That's the gravy Virginia Tech's defense craves.

And that's why a quarterback has to have "pocket awareness." It's a sixth sense a quarterback must possess for self-preservation. While he's focusing on receivers, the quarterback must intuitively feel the pass rush even if he's not watching it.

"You have to know those types of things," said Cato. "You've got to know and watch film on it every day as to what they like to do. What I've seen so far is they like to pass rush every play and react to the run.

"They're playing pass first and, then, reacting to the run."

That comes as no surprise.

"There's nothing new that Virginia Tech's defense does," said Cato, who has completed 68 of 107 passes for 849 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions and four sacks.

"They do the same things. They blitz a lot and just play man behind, so we've just got to take what they give us whether it's the pass or run. We've just got to make the smart decision."

Unlike the poor choices Carden made.

"You can't look at nobody else's down play and put that all on you," said Cato. "They're really going to pick me off three times and sack me seven times?

"You have to have your mindset positive and focused and be thinking when you touch that field you're going to win this ballgame."

No matter what name is on the opponents' jerseys.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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