COLUMN: Soft schedule hurting Cato’s Heisman chances

Shannon Stowers, Assistant Sports Editor

The Thundering Herd offense came into this season with high expectations, and for the most part, it has l ived up to them. One thing that may be a bit of a surprise is quarterback Rakeem Cato’s numbers, though.

As the leader of the potent offense, many expected, and still do, that Cato would put up big numbers; the kind of numbers that get you to New York City for the Heisman Trophy Presentation in December.

To this point , Cato has accumulated 1,338 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. After four games, the senior is on pace for just over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns. Totals that would make this season one of the quarterback’s best.

Cato’s numbers could be better, though.

It’s not that Cato hasn’ t p l ayed we l l . In fact, if you ask head coach Doc Holliday or any of Cato’ s teammates, they’ l l tell you he’s played extremely well this season.

It’s the Herd’s schedule that has hurt Cato’s already improbable chances at a Heisman Trophy. He was never going to get serious consideration from the experts unless he put up video game numbers, and he hasn’t had the chance to do that because of large leads heading into the fourth quarters .

If a couple of the first four games had been tighter after three quarters of play, Cato would have been on the field and most likely adding to his stats in the fourth quarter. Instead he’s playing three quarters of every game, sometimes less. It’s a good problem to have. Most teams dream of winning big every weekend, but it’s easier said than done, even with a soft schedule.

With a third of the season behind him, Cato is averaging less than 300 passing yards a game, a number that will increase as the Herd gets deeper into conference play. At least one would hope those numbers rise. If the Herd keeps putting opponents to rest by the end of the third quarter, Cato will be playing 15 minutes less than most other Heisman Trophy candidates.

This isn’t Cato’s fault though, nor is it the coaches’, team’s or anybody else at Marshall. The Herd’s strength of schedule has taken a hit recently, thanks to conference expansion, and the result is a softer schedule and blowout wins.

Last season, the Herd won two conference games by less than 14 points. If the same thing happens again this season, and it very well could, Cato won’t be seeing much action in fourth quarters.

In a season where the Herd needs big wins to impress voters, Cato’ s Heisman chances could use some close games.

Shannon Stowers can be contacted at [email protected].