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McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud. (Associated Press)

McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud. (Associated Press)

McNeese's Stroud making the plays while limiting mistakes

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 9:09 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Efficiency can sometimes be used as one of those code words to make something sound better than it is.

In real estate lingo, “efficiency apartment” actually means “Hope you don’t mind the stove being at the foot of your bed.”

In the world of quarterbacking, efficiency is never the first statistic anyone looks at — it’s all about yards and touchdown passes. A quarterback could be efficient simply because he only throws the ball 10 times a game.

Part of the issue is also the mystery of how quarterback efficiency is measured. The NFL, NCAA and ESPN each have different mathematical formulas for trying to tell the same story, none of which is as straightforward as “30 touchdown passes” or even a baseball earned-run average.

So when you tell someone McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud ranks eighth in the country with a 164.7 passing efficiency, a likely response might be “That’s great! But what does it mean?”

In Stroud’s case, it means making the most plays with the fewest number of mistakes mixed in.

The senior set a school record Saturday against Nicholls State when he broke Blake Prejean’s mark of 122 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception. Stroud hasn’t been picked off in his last 136 throws going back to the Weber State game on Sept. 21.

“I can’t say I’m scared to take any chances or anything like that. That’s not the case at all,” Stroud said. “If I don’t like the look of something, I’ll just check it down and go to the next play. We have four downs for a reason. It’s not like we have one down to get a first down. I pride myself on not turning the ball over and putting my team in a bad position.”

Stroud has two interceptions, both of which came against the Wildcats. Montana’s Jordan Johnson is the only quarterback in the country who has thrown fewer interceptions with more than 200 attempts.

“He’s done a really good job of protecting the ball,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “He’s been in the system and understands the offense. He also understands when to throw it away if it’s not there. Don’t force it, we’ll punt it. I hate to use the word, but he understands better at being an overall game manager the past couple years.”

Stroud is third to Johnson and Princeton’s Quinn Epperly in his ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions. Stroud has thrown 18 touchdowns. Johnson has 22 touchdowns against one interception, while Epperly has one interception against 15 scores.

It’s impressive enough in any context, but even more so when one considers Stroud threw more interceptions than touchdowns in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.

The difference is experience.

“Maybe earlier in your career, you’d like to take chances you normally wouldn’t,” Stroud said. “But again, it’s a game-situational type thing. If you need a first down, you’ll try to stick it in there. Early in the game if it’s first or second down, you may not want to take a chance.

“The situation, momentum and all those things factor into decisions as a quarterback. I try to put my team in the best position I can, and so far we’ve done a good job at that.”

It’s not all about improved mechanics or decision-making. The ability to better diagnose what a defense is doing also explains Stroud’s continued improvement.

“Two years ago I wasn’t near as good as I am now. The more times you see something, the more prepared you’re going to be the next time you see it,” he said. “I think I am better (reading defenses) than I have been in the past.”

While passing efficiency may still seem like an ambiguous number, it directly correlates to one that’s pretty easy to understand — wins. Like every other quarterback in the national top 10, Stroud’s team is either leading its conference or ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll.

That would seem to make efficiency a code word for “good.”

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