Bulldogs defense halts Muskogee comeback bid
Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
When Fayetteville needed it most, the Bulldogs defense made a huge play to stave off a furious comeback attempt by the Muskogee (Okla.) Roughers on the road Friday night for a 27-22 victory.
With a torrid blitz, a host of Bulldogs forced Muskogee quarterback Quintahj Cherry into throwing a lateral under duress for a 26-yard loss on a third and nine at the Bulldogs 33.
Fayetteville (3-0) held leads of 24-0 in the third quarter and 27-7 in fourth, but two Muskogee touchdowns in less than two minutes, thanks to a successful onside kick, turned the game upside down on the Bulldogs.
But the Bulldogs held when they had to and ran out the clock to for a valuable victory and perhaps a valuable learning experience.
Fayetteville tailback Brayden Cook, who left the game late with an injury, led the Bulldogs in rushing with 19 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Mitch Marshall completed 8 of 14 passes for 126 yards, and a touchdown. Kicker Cal Conway booted field goals of 42 and 26 yards.
On their opening possession of the game, the Bulldogs drove inside the Muskogee 5-yard line but settled for a 26-yard Cal Conway field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs defense stonewalled the Roughers for the rest of the quarter. Dre Greenlaw’s 49-yard punt return gave Fayetteville excellent field position, and the Bulldogs took advantage when Tyrell Tyson slashed into the end zone for a 6-yard score and a 10-0 lead with 8:36 left in the half.
After stumping the Roughers again, the Bulldogs came up short with an incomplete pass on third down, but Marshall pooch punted to the Roughers 1.
After holding Muskogee to a three-and-out, Fayetteville went to work in their two-minute offense from their own 46. After a 4-yard carry by Cook, Marshall hit O’Grady for receptions of 19 and 20 yards to move the ball to the Roughers 1-yard line. Cook did the honors for a 17-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the half. O’Grady’s 20-yard reception was an impressive one-handed grab that was the play of the game.
Fayetteville recovered a Muskogee fumble on the opening possession of the second half, and one play later Marshall threw a 17-yard touchdown strike to Blake Power with 11:36 left in the third quarter for a 24-0 lead.
Rougher Noah Ashley intercepted Marshall with 9:21 left in the third, and the Roughers went 45 yards on 8 plays to cut the Fayetteville lead to 24-7 on a 1-yard run by Cherry. Cherry’s 24-yard pass to Anthony King set up his 1-yard plunge.
Behind runs of 11, 5, 40 and 7 yards by Cook, Fayetteville advanced to the Muskogee 8, but settled for a 42-yard field goal by Conway after a sack with 11:02 left in the game.
The Roughers then went to work. A 33-yard touchdown run by Muskogee tailback Ty Beasley and 2-point conversion cut Fayetteville’s lead to 27-15 with 9:47 to play.
The Roughers recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and two plays later Cherry hit Jy’Reece Vanhook on a slant, for a 44-yard touchdown pass, slicing Fayetteville’s lead to 27-22 with 8:52 remaining.
Neither team scored the rest of the way, allowing the Bulldogs to open 7A-West play next Friday on the road at Van Buren with an unblemished record.
Score By Quarters
FAY: Conway 26 yard FG, 7:14
FAY: Tyson 6 yard run, 8:36 (Conway kick good).
FAY: Cook 1 yard run, :41 (Conway kick good).
FAY: Marshall 17 yard pass to Powell, 11:36 (Fagg kick good).
MUS: Cherry 1 yard run, 6:21 (kick good).
FAY: Conway 42 yard Field goal, 11:02.
MUS: Beasley 33 yard run, 9:47 (Beasley 2 yard run)
MUS: Cherry 44 yard pass to Vanhook, 8:52 (kick good)