Second-ranked Sam Houston State good measuring stick for Cowboys

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

Ninth-ranked McNeese State is treating homecoming opponent Sam Houston State with a mixture of reverence and confidence.

“It’s Sam Houston. You can’t say much else,” said Cowboys quarterback Cody Stroud. “I think we all had this marked on our

calendars months ago when it came out.”

Ask any Cowboy and he’ll tell you that

the No. 2 Bearkats (5-1, 1-0 Southland) are the standard-bearer in the

SLC after back-to-back

appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision national

championship game.

But he’ll also tell you that McNeese (5-1, 1-0) has caught up to a program that had lapped it in the past two seasons, and

Saturday night will be an opportunity to prove that’s the case.

“To be able to face a team of Sam

Houston’s caliber is exciting just if you’re a competitor and love the

sport of football,”

said senior safety Terence Cahee. “Numbers don’t lie. They won the

last two conference championships and, as of now, they

are still (the champs). But it’s a new season, and we’re both 1-0

in conference and looking to go 2-0. At the end of the season

we’ll see where we fall.”

The Cowboys have an additional chip on their shoulders after getting trounced in this season’s previous matchup with a top-five

opponent, losing 41-6 at No. 5 Northern Iowa on Sept. 28.

“We want to show that we can compete with a team like that and that we’re also at that level,” said senior cornerback Guy

Morgan.

Defensive end Chris Loveless said the Cowboys have a better chance against the Bearkats than the last two seasons because

they are closer to full strength.

“They’ve done their thing and proved

they’re a good team,” Loveless said. “But they haven’t actually played a

true McNeese

team in two years. I’m excited because even though we lost (Wes)

Briscoe, this is the healthiest we’ve been in two years.

So they’re going to get a taste ­— and we’re going to get a taste —

of what it’s like to play a top team in our conference.

“This is a great opportunity to prove to other schools in the FCS that we’re the truth.”

The maturation of Stroud behind center gives the Cowboys reason to believe they can turn the tables.

The Bearkats defense essentially dared

Stroud to beat them through the air the last year, and he went 10 of 26

for 119 yards

in response. But that version of Stroud was not the same as the

one ranked second in the league in pass efficiency and leading

the way with 14 touchdown passes.

“We have a lot more maturity at certain

positions, me included,” Stroud said. “The past few years we hadn’t put

it all together.

We had a good run game, but I hadn’t really done anything to help

it out. This year I think we’ve got the capability of doing

either/or.”

Wide receiver Diontae Spencer didn’t exactly channel Joe Namath in the guarantee department, but he said McNeese can prove

a lot this weekend.

“Their body of work the past two years is impressive. We know we’re going against a great team,” Spencer said. “I take the

challenge. To be the best, you have to beat the best. I feel they’re at the top of the game in the FCS … but we feel we’re

better and we’re preparing better. Saturday night we’ll show it.”