Rakeem Cato will make his first start at QB since Marshall's loss to Central Florida.
HUNTINGTON - As Marshall coach Doc Holliday reminded all attending his weekly press conference Tuesday, Rakeem Cato led the team to its two biggest victories this fall.Now the true freshman from Miami may be called on to lead the Thundering Herd to the postseason.Holliday said A.J. Graham will dress and will travel to Memphis for the Thundering Herd's Thursday night game. He didn't discuss Graham's shoulder injury further, but the sophomore left the Tulsa game last Saturday holding his arm up with his other hand. Holliday did say Graham did not practice Monday.The Herd (4-6, 3-3) continued its short-week preparation for its game against Memphis (2-8, 1-5) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:10 p.m. EST.
Graham was injured in the second quarter of the Tulsa game as he dived to pick up a first down. In denying Graham, Tulsa's Alan Dock hit his shoulder hard.With Marshall down 28-3, Cato rushed for a first down but then threw an interception on a downfield pass. He finished 16-of-26 for 163 yards, including a 31-yard scoring toss to Aaron Dobson in the third quarter.Cato has played in all 10 games but has been relegated to mop-up duty since his ragged game at Central Florida, a 16-6 loss. Holliday said Cato has grown up from that benching."The way he carries himself, the way he handles himself, all the things good quarterbacks do, it's understood that he has to do that or he won't play," Holliday said. "He's done a good job this week in practice."He had done a good job when we sat him down at the Central Florida game. A.J. just played well and didn't give it up. Now we find out if it's Cato's turn again, and we'll see how he responds."Eddie Sullivan would be the second string if Graham can't play, and Blake Frohnapfel has traveled with the team all season.Elsewhere on the injury front, Holliday expects right tackle C.J. Wood, running back Tron Martinez and cornerback Rashad Jackson to return Thursday. Holliday was confident, but not definite, about left guard John Bruhin."He's moving around pretty good," Holliday said. "I thought Bruhin would play last week, but he got injured and couldn't get it done. We'll see."nn
The biggest injury Holliday wants to heal is the one to the Herd's collective pride. Players did not exactly feel upbeat about their 59-17 pummeling at Tulsa."Because of the short week, it has to be a lot about us," Holliday said. "Most important thing is, I felt all along, you get concerned coming off that game and having three days to go play again.
"But the most important thing for us is to get the kids feeling really good about themselves, and they're as fresh as they can possibly be when they get there."More than ever, Holliday emphasized the need to get off to a quick start. The Herd scored first in all four of its victories, and has given up the first score in five of its six defeats - some in spectacular fashion."I think a lot of it is who's doing [the scoring]," Holliday said. "At Tulsa, they've got some kids who can make plays. Houston's got some kids who can make plays. That being said, we need to do a better job of stopping them, and the games we've let get away from us a little bit, we haven't done that."We've got to be sure we do a better job and put our kids in positions to make plays."nn
Some would argue Herd coaches didn't adequately prepare for the Tulsa game, with an extra week to do so. Part of the extra week was spent getting the scouting report together for the Memphis game, with a condensed practice schedule ahead.
"Sunday for us was more of a walk-through because we didn't get a day off," Holliday said. "Normally, [Monday] is their day off. We came back [Monday] and that was a combination of Tuesday and Wednesday [with pads, full contact]; today [Tuesday] will be strictly a Thursday and [today] will be strictly a Friday."We'll have extra time at the hotel on Thursday because we don't play until 7 o'clock their time, so we'll have time to prepare at the hotel."nn
There are periods during weekly practices where coaches order a very annoying CD of fight songs played at a considerable volume.That isn't needed this week. The Liberty Bowl stands to be a quiet, quiet venue.An estimated 5,000 attended the Memphis-UAB game, though the official attendance was listed as 17,848. Five thousand could be a generous figure Thursday night.The trick for the visiting team is not to fall asleep."At the end of practice [Monday], I had them all in [a huddle] and I told them to look around," Holliday said. "Look around at the [empty] stadium; that's how it's going to be Thursday night."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org