Cowboys QB Stroud playing under the radar

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

When you grow up in a town with one stoplight, maybe it’s easier to deal with being outside the spotlight.

But if he keeps this up, McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud won’t be overlooked much longer.

The senior from Montgomery, a central Louisiana town with a population of 730, earned Southland Conference offensive player

of the week honors for his performance in McNeese’s 44-42 win over Division II West Alabama on Saturday.

The effort put Stroud’s name in the school record books. His five touchdown passes tied a single-game school record held by

three other quarterbacks — Tim Leger, Scott Pendarvis and McNeese Hall-of-Famer Kerry Joseph.

His streak of 14 consecutive completions during a 30-for-43 effort was also a school record. His 366 yards were the second-most

for a Cowboy in a single game, topped only by Subester Brooks’ 405 yards against Nicholls State in 1985.

“We knew we could do that all along,

but we’ve never really had to do that,” Stroud said of the aerial

attack. “It showed

Coach ( Matt Viator) we were capable and comfortable in that

setting as well. I think that’s why we’re running a little more

no-huddle and up-tempo stuff this year.”

It was the final 20 yards and touchdown that were the most significant, as his connection to Diontae Spencer put the Cowboys

ahead with 45 seconds left.

Stroud’s effort in McNeese’s first three games has been among the best in the country. He’s tied for third in the Football

Championship Subdivision with nine touchdown passes, trailing only Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams and Eastern Illinois’

Jimmy Garoppolo — both of whom run offenses that pass first and ask questions later.

Adams and Garoppolo also came into the season as watch-list candidates for the Walter Payton Award, annually given to the

top offensive player in the FCS.

Stroud?

He didn’t even make it onto the Southland’s preseason all-conference team. That distinction went to Central Arkansas’ Wynrick

Smothers and Sam Houston State’s Brian Bell, who led their teams to the playoffs last season.

Throw in Oregon transfer Bryan Bennett at Southeastern Louisiana and the league had three signal callers at July’s Southland

media day getting more hype than Stroud, who wasn’t even there.

“I feel a little bit (overlooked), but

not really,” Stroud said. “They throw it 60 times a game. We don’t.

We’re a balanced

attack. I won’t get the numbers those guys get. I don’t think

they’re better — I feel I’m better or just as good as those

guys. But we’re a different team. We run. They’ll have better

numbers, and that’s fine. As long as we can beat them when we

play them, I could care less.”

Stroud’s play is doing most of the talking, but it is the little things that explain how he is already halfway to last season’s

total of 19 touchdown passes.

Stroud’s arm may be the same as it was a year ago, but his feet are not. While no one’s confusing him with Johnny Football,

his improved ability to dance around defenders in the pocket helps explain how he’s completed 68 percent of his throws.

“He’s moving a lot better this year, and that’s certainly shown in the first few weeks,” Viator said. “He’s had some good

scrambles. His overall pocket movement has grown, and we’ve certainly needed all of it.”

Not surprisingly, improved mobility was one of the items on Stroud’s offseason check list.

“That was definitely a goal I wrote down, was to get faster in the pocket and make more plays down the field with it,” he

said.

But, according to teammates, Stroud’s greatest area of growth has been an intangible one — leadership.

Spencer has watched his classmate grow from a small-school kid into the Cowboys’ commander.

“He’s grown in the huddle. That’s what people don’t see,” Spencer said. “He might come in and give everybody this smirk like

‘Let’s go. We need to make a play and make this happen.’ That’s where he’s grown the most, is his leadership in the huddle

and within the offense.”