Muskogee road trip final test before league play

The Fayetteville Bulldogs embark on their first road game of the season Friday, making the two-hour drive into Oklahoma to face the Muskogee Roughers at 7 p.m. in their final game before opening 7A-West play at Van Buren on Sept. 27.

Fayetteville head coach Daryl Patton said he’s never coached at Muskogee (0-2), but he’s expecting business as usual from his maturing Bulldogs.

“We’ve also got a bunch of seniors and juniors who have been around,” Patton said. “They know what it’s like going on the road. I expect our players to be very mature about the trip.”

Fayetteville Bulldogs (2-0) vs. Muskogee (Okla.) Roughers (0-2)

Date: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Roughers Stadium, Muskogee, Okla.
TV: Cox 217, U-verse99

Wisely, Patton exposed his squad to travel in the preseason, which takes away most any surprises.

“We’ve already taken a trip down to Bryant for a scrimmage, so our kids have been on the bus together,” Patton said. “Our kids understand what this is. We’re going to use the same format that we did then.

“If you look at the past four or five years, we’ve actually played better on the road than we have at home.”

The Bulldogs (2-0) hope to keep their record unblemished in their final preconference contest. Patton likes the effort and enthusiasm he has seen from the Bulldogs, but he’d like them to play more focused this week against the Roughers.

Fayetteville notched a solid 34-24 victory over Jefferson City (Mo.) last Friday, but the Bulldogs’ mistakes made the game a bit more competitive than it could have been. Turnovers, penalties and mental errors kept the Jays afloat after Fayetteville jumped to an early 14-0 advantage.

“We teach that protecting the ball on offense and producing three turnovers on defense is key to our game plan each week,” Patton said. “The last three years we have been plus 18 to 20 on turnovers, which has been a huge part of our success.

“Uncharacteristically, we turned the ball over and set up short fields for Jefferson City and gave them some gifts. I like the way we responded because we answered each of their scores, but it can’t become a habit. We can’t have it this Friday. If we do, we’ll come back 2-1. We’ve talked about it and I think our players understand.”

Muskogee has had its issues early in the season, too. Mistakes have proven costly to the Roughers in their losses to Sand Springs and Owasso.

“They are very talented and very athletic,” Patton said of the Roughers. “They have hurt themselves the first two weeks with mistakes. We can’t count on that this week. We’ve got to go in with the idea we are going to get their best game, and that they are going to play error-free, that it’s going to be a four-quarter game and it’s going to come down to the last drive of the game. That’s how we have to think. It’s going to take everything we have to pull it out.”

Muskogee has had trouble establishing their running game, but Patton said the issue has been various missed assignments rather than a lack of capability. That lack of production has kept the pressure on Quintahj Cherry, who completed 10 of 25 passes for 100 yards in Muskogee’s 36-7 loss to Owasso.

“It’s been just one guy missing a block, that has held them back,” Patton said. “I think their quarterback throws the ball really well on the move and out of the pocket. They are a dangerous team, particularly if they get it all put together. To me, it was more Muskogee making some mistakes than them just getting beat.”

The Roughers showed multiple fronts, Patton said, and operated different game plans against Sand Springs and Owasso.

“It’s hard as an offensive coordinator or coach to figure out or get a real good bead on them because they do so many things,” Patton said. Their defensive backs are really good. They have some good size up front and at linebacker. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Bulldog tight end and defensive end Chase Turnbull will miss the contest against Muskogee with a knee injury that could keep him out another week or two, Patton said.