ECU's Shane Carden and Marshall's Rakeem Cato both have the ability to create plays through the air and on the ground. Coming into this game each quarterback has thrown 32 touchdowns and seven interception s – like I said, they're freaky similar.
Each is most deadly when rolling out of the pocket. Defensive coordinator Rick Smith believes the key to stopping Cato could be eliminating that aspect of his game.
"They have great wide receivers, but the quarterback makes them go," said Rick Smith about Marshall's offense. "He makes more plays rolling to his right or left than if you keep him in the pocket. Usually if everything is covered and you have him contained he's just going to tuck it and run. The receivers do as good a job as I've ever seen adjusting their routes during his scrambles."
According to Smith, Cato is ‘the real deal,' he's averaging over 275 yards a game and completing 60 percent of his passes. A lot of this boils down to Cato's comfort-level with his number one wide receiver Tommy Shuler.
Both are juniors and attended Miami Central High School together before ending up at Marshall. Shuler has caught eighty passes this season from Cato – one of the highest totals between a quarterback and wide receiver in the nation.
Smith went on to say the similarities between Carden and Cato help his defense a ton in preparation for the game Friday. He mentioned the unit has been working on staying true to its rush lanes with hopes of keeping Cato in the middle of the field and therefore less of a threat.
In the last meeting between the two programs on Nov. 23, 2012 Cato had a huge game, but was out gunned by Carden. Cato finished 31-of-40 for 318 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He was also bottled up in the run game finishing with 18 yards on four carries and no touchdowns.
Carden on the other hand accounted for six touchdowns (3 pass, 3 rush) with no interceptions. He ended the game and the Thundering Herd's chance at bowl-eligibility with his third rushing touchdown in double-overtime.
This year a Conference USA East title is on the line and when the ECU Pirates and the Marshall Thundering Herd line up against each other it's almost always a battle until the last play. This year's matchup should be no different; the teams are almost carbon copies of one another.
Both quarterbacks should shine for their teams Friday and the game will likely boil down to which one turns over the ball more. Look for this to be another shootout between two high-powered offenses.