Rakeem Cato was perfect in his Canadian Football League debut in Montreal.
Cato, the record-breaking former Marshall University quarterback, came off the bench in Saturday’s 26-9 preseason victory by the Montreal Alouettes over the Ottawa Redblacks, passing for 72 yards and a touchdown, hitting on 5-for-5 of his passes.
The game was played in neutral Quebec City.
Montreal (1-0) has one more preseason game — Thursday night at home against Toronto — before opening the regular season on June 25 at home against the same Redblacks team.
The CFL season runs from late June until late November with the playing of the annual Grey Cup, Canada’s version of the Super Bowl.
Cato hopes to land a job this summer with the Alouettes, which have five quarterbacks currently in their camp.
Montreal’s other quarterbacks are: three-year pro and former Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ QB Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan); Canadian QB Brandon Bridge (South Alabama); and also Andrew Manley (Eastern Illinois); and Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee).
The Als will likely keep only three quarterbacks when the end of the preseason comes this weekend.
LeFevour, a former quarterback and starter with Hamilton and a player with CFL experience, is likely to stay as well as Bridge since he’s a national player.
That would mean Cato will likely compete for the last QB spot with Manley and Crompton.
If Saturday’s performance was any indication, he might have just secured his spot on the roster.
Bridge was 4-for-8 passing for 52 yards and one TD in limited play.
Saturday’s contest was played inside the confines of Laval University put was listed as a home game for Ottawa.
Cato took a few drives to settle in but when he did, he delivered a strike to put the Als on the board again. Cato hit rookie reciever Johnathan Bryant in stride down the far sideline for a touchdown to extend the Montreal lead to 26-3.
The rookie Cato wears No. 12 for the Alouettes just as he did for Marshall.
Canadian football differs greatly from what Americans are accustomed to in the NFL, college or high school levels.
The CFL field is longer and wider than football in America as the fields are 110 yards long (there’s two 50-yard lines) with 20-yard deep end zones as opposed to 10 yards in the US.
Twelve players are allowed on the field instead of 11 and multiple wide receivers are allowed to go in motion before the snap.
There’s also only three downs in the CFL which means there’s more passing and athletic, mobile quarterbacks like Cato are highly prized.
The special teams are also much different north of the border.
The goal posts are placed on the goal line instead of at the back of the end zone and missed field goals can be returned. On missed field goals that are not returned out of the end zone, kicked or punted balls that go out of the back of the end zone or touchbacks a single point is awarded for the kicking team.
Defensive lineman are also not allowed to line up on the ball as CFL rules state there has to be a 1-yard cushion in the neutral zone.
In another twist, CFL penalty flags are not yellow. They are orange.
Coaches’ challenge flags are not orange. They are yellow.
Most of the CFL games are streamed over the internet in the US on ESPN3.com. Last year, a handful of games appeared on ESPN2 and also the NBC Sports Network.