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McNeese State wide receiver David Bush pulls in a touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Stroud Saturday night in the Cowboys' 43-17 win over Northwestern State. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)<br>

McNeese State wide receiver David Bush pulls in a touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Stroud Saturday night in the Cowboys' 43-17 win over Northwestern State. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Gazzolo Column: Cowboys show potential, promise of things to come

Last Modified: Sunday, November 17, 2013 1:22 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

They were as different as the tortoise and hare.

One a sucker punch to the chin, the other several body blows to the belly. Both equally effective in their destruction.

They were two drives that looked nothing alike but produced equal damage separated by a halftime break.

Two drives that show both the potential and the promise of this McNeese State football team.

More importantly, they were two drives that likely mean last night was not the last time the Cowboys will play at home this season.

And, finally, they were the drives that gave the Cowboys a 43-17 victory over Northwestern State Saturday night and clinched second place in the Southland Conference.

They could also lead to a bye in the first round of the upcoming Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, giving fans hope of big things to come.

The first one was just your typical 2-minute run through the Northwestern State defense at the end of a rather dry opening half.

However, that 11-play, 80-yard sprint to the end zone lasted just 2:31 and ended with a perfectly placed 4-yard pass from quarterback Cody Stroud to David Bush in the back corner with just 5 seconds left on the clock.

“That was a perfect throw,” said head coach Matt Viator. “Cody’s poise under pressure was what we needed to pull that off.”

The drive gave the Cowboys, who had pretty much slept through the first quarter and were really just starting to get their legs under themselves in the second, a 21-10 lead at intermission.

“I think that put them on their heels,” Stroud said.

The quick-striking nature of that drive showed just how potent the Cowboys can be. They had played beat the clock to perfection.

If that blitzkrieg had put the Demons on their heels, then the sledgehammer march to start the second half blasted them off their feet.

The Cowboys took the second half kickoff and marched down the field like an advancing infantry, leaving destruction in their wake.

They traveled 83 yards on 16 plays that took the first 8:28 out of the third quarter. It also took the heart out of any Northwestern comeback.

“That second one was much more fun,” said right guard Arinze Agada. “When you can keep attacking them, keep running the ball and keep pounding on them, it is fun for the line.”

Agada also saw it take the heart out of the Demons defense.

“When you see those guys on their knees, struggling to get back up, it gives you more power to hit them again,” he said.

That was the second-longest drive both in plays and time on the year and showed the Cowboys can use power when needed as well. This march ended with a Dylan Long 1-yard blast up the middle.

The two scoring marches kept the Demons offense on the sideline for 11 minutes of game time and roughly 50 minutes of real time.

But which one was really more fun depends on just who you ask.

“I definitely like the one where we are throwing,” Stroud said. “Every quarterback likes being in that situation.”

Not so for the coach.

“I really love watching us be able to run the football and keep control,” Viator said. “We you can do that, you can do a lot of damage.”

As for the future of the season, the Cowboys will likely need both types of play to get where they want to go.

“It says a lot about how balanced we are and what kind of leadership we have,” Agada said. “We are going to need everything if we are to make a run through the playoffs.”

Ah yes, the playoffs.

The Cowboys may need the power game to plow through snow one week and the speed game to blow by high-scoring foes the next.

Saturday night, they showed that they can play either way.

That alone shows the potential of this team and the promise of things to come.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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