ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Take a look at Marshall’s passing records and three names jump out. The first two are obvious: Chad Pennington and Bryon Leftwich are legendary at Marshall and own nearly every single-season and career record. But now a third name has joined them and by the time he’s done playing for The Herd, he may very well eclipse all of their marks.
With his three touchdown passes in the Military Bowl, Rakeem Cato tied Pennington for the Marshall single-season touchdown record of 39, earned Most Valuable Player honors and led The Herd to a 31-20 win over Maryland.
Actually for Cato, three touchdown passes was a little pedestrian, considering he has thrown five in a game twice this season. He completed 28-of-44 for 337 yards and finished the season with 4,253 yards through the air. That tops his own mark of 4,201 he set last year for third on the all-time list behind Leftwich and Tony Petersen.
“You talk about three great players. For Cato to have Byron and Chad as two great influences and mentors, that’s why he is where he is and I’m just proud of him,” said Marshall coach Doc Holliday.
Cato has come a long way from the lanky kid who started as a true freshman three years ago. Along with his physical development has come a maturity that was on full display in the bowl victory.
Three years ago, Marshall may not have been able to respond following Maryland’s dominant 99-yard drive that give the Terrapins a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Cato never lost his cool and the team never waivered.
“Stay patient on the sidelines, keep my teammates motivated and be ready to get back on the field,” said Cato as he described his feelings watching the Terps on that scoring drive. “I told my guys that when we get back on the field, that we have to capitalize. We just needed to have the mindset to get on the field and score.”
Marshall did exactly that.
Cato found his favorite red-zone target, Gator Hoskins, for the go-ahead score. Cato’s third scoring toss of the night gave him 91 for his career. He’s now second on the all-time list with only Pennington’s 115 in front of him. As Cato stays healthy, that record will also fall next season.
“When we did get some pressure, we didn’t keep him in the pocket. We let him get to the edges,” said Maryland coach Randy Edsell.
It’s scary for opposing defensive coordinators to consider that we may have not seen the very best of Cato just yet. He still has another year coming for The Herd and there’s much more he and his teammates want to accomplish.
He wants to accomplish the same as Leftwich and Pennington in their careers, setting records and winning championships.
And he’s well on his way.