MORGANTOWN - Marshall University head coach John 'Doc' Holliday may very well be remembered as an outstanding head coach, but for now the former WVU assistant will be remembered as the 'coach who recruited Geno Smith to Morgantown'.
"He (Smith) is a very good quarterback," Holliday explained following the Thundering Herd's 69-34 loss to the Mountaineers. "He's one of the best in the country."
Smith's performance on Saturday in the final edition of the Friends of Coal Bowl left little doubt that Marshall's third-year coach knew what he was talking about. The senior completed 90 percent (32-of-36) attempts for 323 yards and four touchdowns at WVU remained unbeaten in its series with Marshall (12-0). When he was pressured by the Herd's defense or a play was busted, the Florida-native was able to turn what should have been a negative into a positive.
"That showed how much he has matured in that offense," continued Holliday. "Even when we did get pressure on him, and that didn't happen very often, he was able to make something out of nothing and that is the sign of a good, no make that great, quarterback."
Something Marshall fans may have in the very near future as sophomore signal-caller Rakeem Cato threw for 413 yards and two scores, connecting on 38-of-54 attempts.
"I thought he (Cato) played very well and did the things we asked of him. The one interception came on a tipped ball and the fumble was the result of a missed assignment on our part and a hustle play on their part."
Cato showed what he could do after WVU's second touchdown of the game - a 3-yard run by senior Shawne Alston - leading the green and white on an 13-play, 98-yard drive to open the second quarter.
With the shadow of his own goal line at his back, the second-year starter completed 4-of-6 attempts for 46 yards, the big one being a 24-yarder to Eric Frohnappel on third-and-7 from the Marshall 36, and rushed 12 yards for another Herd first down as the visitors pulled to within six, 13-7, on Travon Van's 4-yard touchdown run with 11:16 left until the intermission.
The Florida native continued to give Marshall fans plenty to cheer about on the Herd's next possession, driving the team down to the WVU 18 before having to settle for a 34-yard Justin Haig field goal with 7:11 showing on the clock.
That would be as close as the guests would get at Holliday's 'other' quarterback recruit - Smith - led the Mountaineers on scoring drives of 83 and 74 yards to lead WVU to a 34-10 halftime advantage.
"Overall, I thought he (Cato) ran our offense well. He was able to make some plays out there today. For the most part we have several positives we can take for this game offensively. I can't say that about our defense."
Frohnapfel, who had originally committed to West Virginia, but elected to go to Marshall when Holliday became the head coach, led the team with six catches for 60 yards and one score. Tommy Schuler finished with five for 47 while former South Charleston standout Aaron Dobson (72 yards) and Jermaine Kelson (45) contributed four catches apiece as Marshall finished with 545 yards of total offense on 101 plays.
Marshall (0-1) returns to action next Saturday when Western Carolina pays a visit to Joan C. Edwards Stadium while WVU (1-0) has the week off before traveling to FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to face James Madison at 4:30 p.m.
"There were two very good quarterbacks out there today," Holliday said. "He (Smith) did the things that he needed to do to help them win, but our guy (Cato) did a lot of good things as well and he will help us win a lot of games over the next few years."