The spring teaser from Tusk to Tail
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Take a spring day in Fayetteville. A gorgeous day that actually felt like spring, unlike the winter AND summer temperatures of the days before.
Add a sporting event. Make it two, and let's say the Hogs don't lose all day.
Between games, take time to catch up with old friends while feasting on chips and cheese dip, bratwursts, hot dogs, and brownies. There seems to be enough beer and cocktails to fill Reynolds Razorback Stadium, while others drink a steady stream of soft drinks and water.
This is almost any given Saturday in the fall for Tusk to Tail, but this weekend felt different. For the more than 51,000 who attended the Red-White football scrimmage, and the more than 10,000 who carried over to the baseball game against Texas A&M, Saturday was a thunderous Razorgasm. The revelry lasted all day, and left us satisfied and exhausted.
For many, the day kicked off with Razorfest. Hosted by Abbot Nutrition, the carnival featured family-friendly games, giveaways, music, and mascots. Tusk to Tail's Photo Hog, Mark Wagner, stopped by to get a few shots before meeting the gang at The Catfish Hole for lunch. When asked for a comment, Mark replied, "I hate crowds." Alrighty, then.
The Catfish Hole served up glorious golden brown baskets of fish, French fries, and hushpuppies for our table of 14 that spanned three generations. The capacity crowd was filled with diners wearing red and white Hog gear, leaving little doubt that today was game day.
New head football coach Bret Bielema had requested fans to come break the spring scrimmage attendance record, and the full parking lots along Razorback Road indicated he may get his wish of 50,000 fans. We arrived to find most of the lower bowl steadily filling up, and met in the shade of the press box in Section 106.
Most of the news surrounding his spring's football practices have emphasized Bielema's desire to get the Hogs tougher on both lines of scrimmage, so many of us were expecting to see a fundamental approach to running the ball.
Imagine our joy when the first play featured a deep pass from Brandon Allen to Javontee Herndon. The pass may have fallen incomplete, but the message had already been sent. Bielema ball was going to be more than "three yards and a cloud of dust."
Herndon was the featured receiver on many of Allen's passes, while Keon Hatcher was locked in with Brandon Mitchell from the start. Demetrius Wilson scored the first touchdown of the game on a pass from Allen to the corner of the end zone.
Wilson's touchdown highlighted an obvious dilemma with intrasquad scrimmages. Every good play by the offense means the defense could not stop it, and vice versa. On this particular play, cornerback Carroll Washington got completely turned around, never seeing the ball until it was nestled in Wilson's hands.
The run game appears to be vastly improved from the recent past. Thanks in part to sound blocking, running back Jonathan Williams powered his way through the line with precision and confidence. Williams displayed the tools to be a workhorse, bouncing up quickly from a hard shot from linebacker Robert Atiga.
Running back Kody Walker returned from his second season-ending injury in as many years, trading in his old number 40 for 24, and looked as strong as ever. Sophomore Nate Holmes brought a burst of speed that left us looking forward to seeing more.
But perhaps the most intriguing player Saturday was running back Patrick Arinze. The 5' 10", 254 pound wrecking ball plowed his way through the defense in his limited carries, dragging no fewer than half a dozen white-jerseyed gentlemen at one point. The plays where he is coupled with fullback Kiero Small, known as the "22 Bam" formation, are going to be a blast to watch.
Tusk to Tailgaters Dale Cullins and Greg Houser left with Houser's father Dean at halftime to set up the tent and chairs outside Baum Stadium – home of the Diamond Hogs. Shortly after backup quarterback A.J. Derby threw an ugly interception, Dale texted that that cheese dip was hot, and beer was cold. It seemed like a great time to leave, especially after it was announced that the attendance record had officially been broken by a crowd of 51,088.
Our first tailgate of the year showed that Dale never forgets how to plan a party. By the time the crew had arrived, the feast was laid out, ready to be washed down with gallons of refreshments, including delicious Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.
The unofficial beverage of any Tusk to Tailgate is what is respectfully known as the John Daly. If an Arnold Palmer is the perfect combination of lemonade and iced tea, adding vodka seemed like an appropriate tribute to the Hog Wild golfer from Dardanelle.
Whereas the Red-White game is the culmination of 15 painstaking practices, we tend to dive headfirst into tailgating, usually to be reminded that eating junkfood and drinking vodka all day tends to take its toll. I noticed Jack Clark holding his stomach, lamenting his most recent bratwurst.
By the time Athletic Director Jeff Long pulled his Cadillac into his reserved space next to our party, the Godfather of Tailgating Craig May was blasting a Widespread Panic concert recording out of the open windows of his Tahoe. Long did not stick around.
Looking around the tailgate, I saw nothing but smiles. Many of us had not seen each other since the end of last season, and we had a ball catching up and discussing plans for the coming season.
The good feelings carried into the game, both on and off the field. The Diamond Hogs finally found their stroke, knocking in run after run in the shutout. Around the middle of the game we received an invitation to join good friends Scott Audrain and Brad Workman in their luxury suite.
Sitting there along first base provided an opportunity to share more laughs. And more cocktails. As the Hogs beat the Aggies for the first time in a major sport since they joined the SEC, it was easy to get lost in the throes of Razorgasm.
Tusk to Tail hopes the afterglow can last until the next tailgate.