By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall coach Doc Holliday announced that quarterback Rakeem Cato and tight end Gator Hoskins will be the offensive captains for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Gardner-Webb. He said the decision was “based on their performance in the game on Saturday (against Miami of Ohio) and also their leadership throughout camp.”
It should come as no surprise the duo was picked to lead the offense against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Cato and Hoskins developed a chemistry last season that spilled into the 2013 season opener.
Cato found Hoskins for two of his five touchdown passes in last week’s 52-14 win over the RedHawks. They went for 20 and 14 yards as the Thundering Herd won its season opener under Holliday for the first time.
Last season, Hoskins had a team-leading 10 touchdown receptions and caught 35 passes for 374 yards.
“A lot of it has to do with matchups,” Holliday said. “Gator is a matchup problem for a lot of people, because sometimes he’s matched up with a linebacker.
“He just has a good feel for the game. He’s very athletic and runs good routes. He just finds a way to get open and he’s a big strong guy. At times, Cato will just throw it up to him and he’ll go and get it.”
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There were a lot of numbers to be impressed with from the Herd’s defensive performance against Miami (Ohio). Holliday certainly had his favorite.
“The biggest thing that impressed me was that we only had four missed tackles. That’s unheard of, to be honest,” he said. “To only have four missed tackles tells me that we have guys who are running around playing with great fundamentals, great technique and are under control. Anytime our defense comes back in Sunday and we have single digit missed tackles, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to win that football game. That was the case Saturday.
“I think the other thing is that our guys got lined up and played with the enthusiasm that they played with and had fun doing it.”
Among them, Holliday said, were nickel back Corey Tindal (four tackles, one for loss) and linebacker Neville Hewitt (eight tackles).
“You get a few guys that play with the kind of energy that Tindal plays with and he’s done that from the time he stepped on the field,” Holliday said. “It’s not something that just happens on Saturdays. If you come and watch a practice, he’s like that then, too. He just learns the game and it’s infectious on the other kids. It’s not just him. … I see a lot of guys running around on that defense playing really well and having a fun time doing it. Tindal and Hewitt are a couple of those guys.”
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Cato ran for 59 yards last week, tucking the ball and running when it was called for. It was his 15-yard gain on third-and-8 that accounted for the Herd’s first first down in the second quarter.
Cato using his legs is an indication to Holliday of how much the junior from Miami is willing to do to lead the team to a win.
“He had a couple of times that he ran well with the football, which is something he wouldn’t have done in the past,” Holliday said. “He picked up a couple key first downs for us. He’s a very unselfish player. He’s continued to mature and has grown up a lot.
“He’s taking what the defense gives us. He doesn’t care if we throw for 300 yards or run for 300 yards. He just wants to win and that’s why he is a captain this week. He’s done a tremendous job as far as leadership goes. I’m proud of how he has grown as a quarterback.”
— E-mail: gfauber