The rookie stepped into his first CFL game and threw three touchdown passes to lead the Alouettes to a convincing 29-11 victory over the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
He got a lot of help from his defence, who held the Stampeders off the scoreboard until late in the third quarter. Running back Tyrell Sutton was also a big help with 134 yards on 25 carries.
But the star of the game for his teammates and the 19,111 fans at Percival Molson Stadium was the 23-year-old Cato.
"I don't get nervous," said Cato. "I lived a rough life.
"I lost my mom. I never seen my father. Those things are hard. Not football. I love the game of football, so every moment I try to have fun with it."
Cato completed 20 of 25 passes for 241 yards, including TD tosses to Samuel Giguere, Cody Hoffman and former Stampeders star Nik Lewis. Boris Bede added three field goals for Montreal (1-1).
"He's an amazing player but now it's time to build," Lewis said of Cato. "He's still learning the offence."
Jon Cornish had a touchdown, Marquay McDaniel added a two-point convert and Rene Paredes had a field goal for the Stampeders (1-1), who did not get on the board until Paredes' 28-yard field goal 11:41 into the third quarter.
Calgary moved the ball most of the night, but laboured to put up points. They had 309 yards in net offence and McDaniel had 113 receiving yards.
"We're doing a good job of moving the chains, but when it comes to the big plays, we have to make them,'' said quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. "We've all got to look at ourselves in the mirror and look at the film."
The Alouettes were forced to go with a rookie quarterback when both starter Jonathan Crompton and backup Dan LeFevour were hurt in a season-opening loss to Ottawa last week.
Coach Tom Higgins opted for Cato over Canadian Brandon Bridge, who had seen his first CFL action against the Redblacks. Both took reps in practice all week and Cato said he didn't find out he was the starter until earlier Friday.
"He's a pure passer," said Higgins. "We thought Brandon would get more snaps, but we have a quarterback who can get the ball to the receivers."
He cautioned that opponents, including Winnipeg next week, would now have tape to watch of Cato's play and it would get more difficult.
Cato led the Alouettes to a touchdown on their first possession. Looking calm and efficient, he went 5 for 5 on a 95-yard drive capped by a six-yard TD pass to Giguere.
He led another drive for a 23-yard Bede field goal and, on the next-to last push of the first half, marched downfield again for a six-yard touchdown strike to Lewis, who ran over Brandon Smith on his way into the end zone.
Cato's first drive of the second half led to a 16-yard TD pass over the middle to Hoffman.
A Bede field goal to open the fourth quarter put Montreal up 25-3, but Mitchell answered with a 63-yard pass to McDaniel that led to Cornish's score on a one-yard carry at 4:25. Bede added another boot with 2:53 to play.
Calgary's Jeff Fuller, named second star of the week for his 148 receiving yards in the season opener, was scratched with a nagging knee problem.
Montreal had Michael Sam on its 46-man roster, but he was dropped when the team cut to 44 players before the game.