HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Marshall’s current three-game win streak has seen the most consistent and balanced play from the offense that fans have seen all season. Marshall has racked up 600+ yards of total offense against Southern Miss, UAB and Tulsa and has not relied exclusively on the passing game or rushing attack.
Rakeem Cato threw for 456 yards and five touchdowns last week against Tulsa, but the run game was effective enough to keep the linebackers and safeties at bay. Marshall rushed for 163 yards on the Golden Hurricane. Over the last three weeks, Marshall’s rushing offense has found its legs. Against Southern Miss Essray Taliaferro, Kevin Grooms, and Steward Butler all gained over 100 yards as Marshall rushed for 381 yards total.
“We have to be able to do both,” says Chris Jasperse about running and throwing the ball. “We do a lot of play action which puts us in a run fit and really helps the passing game because it sucks the linebackers up. If we sell run it helps out Cato back there.”
Tulsa was determined to was stop the run, so when Marshall showed an inside zone play-action, all three linebackers got sucked inside leaving the middle of the field wide open for Cato to throw in.
The passing game is also progressing thanks to the emergence of the outside receivers. Teams such as FAU and Middle Tennessee State tried to take away inside guys Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins, two of Cato’s favorite targets and force Cato to throw the ball to the boundaries. Against Tulsa, Devon Smith had seven catches 114 yards and Craig Wilkins hauled in six passes for 63 yards.
“Our outside wideouts stepped up big. Craig Wilkins played a great game. Moo Moo played a heck of a game and those guys just stepped up and they need to continue growing and get better,” praised Cato.
Even when Shuler is being bracketed by the defense he still finds way to get receptions. Shuler finished the night with nine grabs for 105 yards and Gator Hoskins had five receptions. With four weapons split out, instead of two, Cato carved up the Golden Hurricane defense.
Cato, now at the end of his third year as a starter, has been given more leeway at the line of scrimmage to check into the right play. Jasperse says the offense is simply taking what the defense is giving it.
“If they want to shut the run game down, Cato will throw the ball everywhere. If they want to stop the pass game, we’ll run it down their throat. Depending on what kind of coverage their playing its going to be the outside receivers or the inside receivers and everybody is just doing a great job of executing their assignments,” says Jasperse.