HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— For one play it looked like 1998 at Joan C. Edwards with Chad Pennington in the shotgun and Randy Moss line up out wide to Pennington’s right. Pennington completed the first pass of the Green/White game, an eight-yard hitch to Moss.
“Heck those would go for 20 yards,” Pennington later joked.
Pennington, Moss, Bryon Leftwich and several other Marshall alumni returned for the game Saturday but it was the collection of quarterbacks that caught everyone’s attention. It was a rare sight to have the top three passers in Marshall history on the same field at the same time and one of them still has a year to play.
“When he leaves here he’s probably going to have the best stats out of any quarterback that has played here and that’s ok,” Leftwich said about current quarterback Rakeem Cato. “When Chad left I told him I was coming to get him and its good to see he came and got us.”
Cato has built a relationship with the former Herd and NFL quarterbacks and has been able to draw from their experiences to improve his game and leadership qualities. He also wants to set the bar higher than Pennington and Leftwich left it.
“Those guys played on this turf and set the standards high,” said Cato. “For us we need to set our standards even higher and become those legendary players.”
Leftwich is right. So long as Cato stays healthy he will rewrite Marshall passing records during his senior season. That also means the expectations placed on Cato are going to be higher that ever before.
“They’re not going to be realistic. There’s going to game where he throws for 250 yards, two touchdowns, grades out at 99 percent and people will be asking what’s wrong with Rakeem Cato?” Pennington pointed out. “He has to focus on ‘what do I have to do win football games?’ period.”
And that’s where Pennington and Leftwich can help Cato. Both were in the exact same positions heading into their senior seasons. Pennington’s senior year ended up being one of the best in school history. He led the 1999 Thundering Herd to a perfect 13-0 season and a top 10 ranking. Leftwich battled through a broken leg during his senior season to stay on the field and lead his team, cementing his place in Marshall lore.
But Leftwich notes, extremely high expectations on the quarterback at Marshall just comes with the territory.
“When you play quarterback at this university it is expected of you,” Leftwich said proudly. “Only a few people can say they played quarterback at Marshall University.”
And for a few hours, the best three to have ever played the position at Marshall stood on the field at the same time.