Panthers ready to face Marshall in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

Photo by Kristi Camara
By Jackson Wolek/ Staff Writer
When the Panthers take the field on Dec. 20 to face Marshall in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, they’ll run across a few familiar faces in the opposing sideline.

Photo by Kristi Camara

Offensive Coordinator Bill Legg used to conduct the offense at FIU before leaving for Marshall in January 2010. Most players that are still on the team now, including T.Y Hilton were coached by Legg.
“[He’s] Well respected guy around the country, a guy who has always done a great job,” said head coach Mario Cristobal. “They have a very big and physical offensive line; the quarterback is in tune with his receivers and tight ends and the running backs run hard, they get after you and it’s a good football team.”
At the head of the Thundering Herd’s offense is freshmen quarterback Rakeem Cato, who threw for 155-265 completions and 13 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Cato verbally committed to be a Panther his entire senior year in high school before he chose to be a Herd instead.
The Miami native played for Miami Central High School and shares a personal relationship with T.Y. Hilton.
“He’s a great kid, I actually raised him growing up,” said Hilton. “He was my homeboy so it’s going to be fun to see him again.”

Marshall receiver Aaron Dobson making a fantastic one-handed catch. (Photo Courtesy of

Hilton will wear blue and gold for the last time in his collegiate career.
His main target all season has been Aaron Dobson who led the team with 10 touchdowns and 42 receptions. What the 6-3 receiver is most known for however, is the tremendous backhanded, one-handed catch in the endzone against East Carolina that had flooded YouTube and SportsCenter.
“Their receiver is on ESPN every week with the one-handed catch,” Greg Hickman said.
The Herd also has a tandem of running backs they use. Tron Martinez, who ran for 591 yards on 144 carries and Travon Van, who rushed for 529 yards on 132 carries, lead the way for Marshall.  While Van has been seen to shake off defenders in the open field, Martinez runs through them. Martinez, the power back, is expected to play in the bowl game despite having an injury to his knee.
The Panthers have defended the run well this year, giving up just 121.5 yards per game. The defense was also 16th in the nation in points allowed with 19.4 points a game.
“We’re just mix it up, we got different coverage’s, different calls , different blitzes so we know how to handle each of those,” said Winston Fraser.
On defense, The Herd has Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and All-American Vinny Curry, who finished the season with 72 tackles, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. FIU Offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann is aware, but not worried about going up against him.
“To be quite honest with you he’s a human being,” Hauptmann said.  “I don’t know if the media and the rest of the United States of America know this but he is a human being, he bleeds, he eats, he sweats, and he goes to the bathroom doesn’t he? So that’s what I think about it.”
Despite having Curry, Marshall gave up 30 points per game this season, 84th in the nation.
Speculation swirling around the internet of Cristobal leaving FIU to go to Pittsburgh is rampant, but nothing official yet. Cristobal interviewed for the job last year before signing a five-year extension with FIU and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cristobal has interviewed for the Pittsburgh gig once again.

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