Rakeem Cato

Quarterback Rakeem Cato leads a Marshall offense averaging 43 points per game heading into Friday's Military Bowl against Maryland in Annapolis. (Bob Levey, Getty Images / December 7, 2013)

To prepare for Friday's Military Bowl between Maryland (7-5) and Marshall (9-4), we traded emails with Derek Redd, who covers the Thundering Herd for the Charleston Daily Mail. You can check out more of Derek's coverage here on the Daily Mail's website.

 

TRACKING THE TERPS: Give us a quick scouting report on quarterback Rakeem Cato (3,579 passing yards and 36 touchdowns), and what makes him and the Marshall offense so dangerous?

DEREK REDD: Cato's numbers may be down from his 2012 Conference USA MVP season, but his coaches say he's a better overall quarterback this year. To him, the success of the offense trumps his personal numbers. Case in point, he kept calling run plays in his run-pass options against UAB. The result was three running backs gaining more than 100 yards each and a blowout win.

Cato is supremely comfortable in Marshall's scheme, has a pretty good running game behind him and two all-conference receivers in Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins.


With five straight wins, the Herd seemed to be cruising before that 41-24  loss to Rice in the Conference USA championship game. What went wrong, and how was Rice able to slow down that offense?

Rice hit Marshall with a trick play and a long TD pass early to jump to a quick 14-0 lead, and the Herd already struggles away from home, so that made it worse.

Rice did a very good job setting the tone with its running game and keeping Marshall's offense out of rhythm for much of the game.


Motivation is usually a worthy topic of discussion heading into these pre-New Years bowl games. What would you say is Marshall’s mindset heading to the Military Bowl?


The team wants 10 wins, a level it hasn't reached since 2002. It also wants to show that its game versus Rice was an aberration. There is a very competitive group of leaders on the team, so focus shouldn't be a problem.


Give us one player on Marshall to watch Friday who we probably haven’t heard of.

Cato, Shuler and the offense take most of the headlines, but defensive tackle James Rouse has been integral to the defense's massive improvement. He missed all but three games in the two previous seasons with injuries, but returned this year to tie for fourth in C-USA in tackles for loss and be named first team all-conference.


And a prediction?

Despite Marshall's struggles away from home and the fact that Maryland is playing so close to home, I think the Marshall offense does enough for a close win, say 28-24.