Sept. 30, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – It’s a show that has been viewed before, and it likely will be seen again … but this was a new episode.
It’s Marshall Football’s version of “Friends.”
The buddy system that brought quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler from Miami to the Thundering Herd erased more lines in the school record book Saturday, even while Marshall was falling to Purdue, 51-41.
Some Boilermaker marks were deep-sixed on the grass at Ross-Ade Stadium, too, although two interceptions of Cato that were returned for Purdue touchdowns – and another previous pick that led to Boilers’ scores on three straight first-half series -- doused the postgame appreciation by the Herd (2-3, 1-0).
The sophomore passing combo went a few numbers better than their record-setting day in a home loss to still-unbeaten Ohio two weeks earlier. The biggest number belonged to Shuler, the 5-foot-8 slot receiver who obliterated the Marshall school record for single-game receptions, with 19, on a 200-yard day.
“People sooner or later are going to find out about him,” said Cato, who threw for five touchdowns in the loss, three of those to tight end Gator Hoskins. “I don’t think anybody in college history can stop him. Nobody.
“They’re going to man him up, one-on-one, he’s going to beat you. They’re going to find out they need to double him, or bracket him or something like that. If they keep playing him one-on-one, we’re going to keep doing the same thing.”
Shuler’s 19 catches wiped out the Herd-record 15 that was shared by David Foye (against Kent State, 2000), Denero Marriott (East Carolina, 2001 GMAC Bowl) and Josh Davis (Akron, 2004).
The 19 also are the most by any major college receiver since the 2009 Conference USA championship game, when Houston’s James Cleveland caught the same number against ECU – so Shuler now shares the league record.
Cato, the nation’s leader in completions (187), passing yards (1,920) and total offense (1,951), was 45-for-68 for 439 yards. The 45 completions broke his own MU single-game record of 44. His 68 tied his quarterbacks coach, Tony Petersen, in the Herd record book for regular-season attempts. Petersen threw 68 against Western Carolina in 1987.
Byron Leftwich still has the school record 70, set in the double-overtime GMAC Bowl win over ECU in 2001.
The Herd’s 45 catches as a team also wiped out the single-game team school record of 44 from two weeks ago against Ohio and in 2002 against Ball State., set two weeks earlier against the Bobcats, and also wiped out the team record for completions from that loss to Ohio and the 44.
Cato’s 45-for-68 (both numbers) were Purdue opponent and Ross-Ade Stadium (Purdue or foe) records. The Purdue opponent marks taken by Cato had stood since Illinois’ Jack Trudeau went 40-for-66 back in 1985. Shuler’s 19 catches also produced a Purdue opponent record, topping 16 catches by David Williams in that same ’85 Illini-Boilermakers’ game (also opponent team records).
And Cato’s 439 air yards were his personal best, topping by seven yards his Ohio performance on Sept. 15, and the most by the Herd since the same number in the 2004 loss at Akron in which Davis tied the then-individual Marshall receptions record.
“They’ve done that all year,” Herd Coach Doc Holliday said of the Cato-Shuler duo. “They’re a good combination but again, all the yardage and all that stuff’s great, but when you lose the game, when you turn it over, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.
“So, we’ve got to find ways to win, find ways to take care of the football, and if we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Cato, so distraught as a rookie last September when he threw four picks in a lopsided loss at Ohio, was matter-of-fact after he completed 45 to teammates and three to foes in all-black uniforms.
“The 500 yards, 41 points – all that doesn’t mean anything,” Cato said. “Zero yards, zero catches, zero turnovers … I just want to get the win.”
The Boilermakers (3-1) scored four touchdowns in 4:56 of the second quarter as the game went from 14-all to 42-14. Shuler said Cato learned from his growing pains in 2011.
“Yeah, last year he was kind of rattled,” said Shuler, who has 51 receptions in five games. “He was a freshman … This time he kind of stayed calm, came out, he knew he’d been picked, he just said going to keep grinding, put it behind us, and he did.”
After the biggest receiving day in Herd history, Shuler was asked what was the limit … what does he see as a realistic potential number that can be produced by the Herd offense and the Cato-to-Shuler bond that’s much deeper than the slot man’s routes … 20? 25?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just go out every day and I tell myself I’ve got to set high goals and I just went out there today and played ball, pitch and catch. It wasn’t anything special. I just go out and play pitch and catch and hope the best for it.
“I go out there and just tell Cato to find me, and he finds me, and I just catch the ball and do what I can do with the ball.”
Cato and Shuler agreed that some of the receiver’s opportunity comes because opposing defenses are worried about being beaten deep by senior wideout Aaron Dobson, who was limited to three receptions for 42 yards by the Boilermakers.
“If you’re a corner, you have to (gameplan against Dobson),” Cato said. “I mean, if you’re up there doubling a slot and going one-on-one with Dobson, you’d be a fool. You’re just asking for a touchdown. So, they did a good job and we just adjusted to it and kept finding the open spot.
“It’s just not happening right now (the deep sideline route to Dobson). We’re putting a lot of numbers up on offense and the deep route is the lowest percentage ball, so we’ve just got to keep working on that, repping it more, repping it more, and hopefully we’ll come up big on it.”
Until then – and tough Tulsa (4-1, 2-0) visits Edwards Stadium for Herd Homecoming on Saturday – Cato is likely to keep looking for and keep throwing to his classmate and roommate.
“I just go out there and ask Cato to find me and he finds me,” said Shuler, whose 51 receptions lead the nation. “I just watch a lot of film and then go out there and play ball, pitch and catch, nothing special.
“Coming into the game (Purdue) tried to bring in another cornerback and play man, so that was good for us. I wanted man, I think everyone on our team wanted man … It was just finding holes in the defense. Everybody was finding holes. Rakeem found me. I just made the play.”