Dec. 26, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa backup strong safety David Cato finished the 12-game regular season with two solo tackles. Yet few of the team’s 902 total tackles were more significant than the solo stop for a loss Cato delivered Sept. 19.
At the time, the Hawkeyes were trying to keep Pacific Life Holiday Bowl-bound Arizona from taking a 7-point lead in a pivotal nonconference clash inside Kinnick Stadium. Wildcat running back Nic Grigsby had just reeled off a 58-yard gain, leaving Arizona with first-and-goal from the Hawkeye 1.
Arizona called Grigsby’s number again, but Cato shot through the line of scrimmage and dropped him for a 2-yard loss. After two incomplete passes, the Wildcats settled for a 20-yard field goal to take a brief 10-7 lead. Six plays later, Iowa answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Adam Robinson and the Hawkeyes went on to win the game, 27-17.
“If the lineman blocked down, I was going to come off the edge and do whatever to make the play,” Cato said. “My instincts took control. I saw the running back get the ball, so I just went across, dove for him and made the best play I could.”
Cato, a sophomore from Summit High School in Arlington, Texas, had two tackles against Arizona. For the season, he played in 11 games with two solo stops and four assists. The often-overlooked tackle against the Wildcats turned out to be very significant during Iowa’s 10-2 run that has led to a berth in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
“My adrenaline was just rushing,” Cato said of the goal-line stand. “When I get into the game, I just play. I let my emotions and instincts take over and that’s what makes it happen.”
There is another classic image of Cato during the 2009 season and it occurred with the Big Ten Championship on the line in Columbus, Ohio. Trailing 24-10 early in the fourth quarter, the host Buckeyes kicked to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who followed a convoy of Hawkeye blockers — led by Cato — en route to a 99-yard touchdown return.
“We were down, so all I was thinking is that we had to score to back into the game,” Cato said. “Everybody pulled together, we made blocks and Derrell made the return. I was like, `let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ All I could see is touchdown and we scored a touchdown.”
No. 10 Iowa will play No. 9 Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl on Tuesday, Jan. 5. The Hawkeyes returned to practice this afternoon and they will depart for Miami tomorrow. It is the second time in eight seasons that Iowa has participated in a Bowl Championship Series game.
“There aren’t too many teams that get a chance to play in a BCS game. We’re just very blessed to be in one,” Cato said. “You can’t even put it all in words what it means and what a great season we had and all the things we went through — the resiliency we had. It was a blessing to me. Not many people get to be in our position and we have to take full advantage of it.”
In typical Hawkeye “team-first” fashion, Cato defers individual bowl ambitions for the betterment of the complete group.
“I just want to win,” he said. “I don’t have any goals for myself. I just want to win for the whole team.”