Tusk to Tail 2014: ‘Annoying’ Hog fans and Dallas Police calling the Piggies
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Somehow, someway the 2014 installment of the Southwest Classic again lived up to its name, as a rising Arkansas squad and national title contender Texas A&M played an overtime thriller at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Only problem? The good guys lost.
The Razorbacks carried a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter but they couldn't overcome big, timely plays by Aggies QB sensation Kenny Hill and ultimately fell 35-28, denying head coach Bret Bielema what would have been his signature win at Arkansas and his first ever in the SEC.
Sure, we'll look back bitterly on two key penalties – one that brought back a Hunter Henry touchdown, another that negated a Jonathan Williams blast inside the A&M 5 yard line – and a badly missed field goal that just might have iced the game for the Razorbacks late in the fourth quarter.
But this was just one of those games. A game where one team knew how to win, and one didn't. These Hogs are climbing the mountain, friends, no doubt. But they have a ways to go before they (inevitably) reach the peak.
As for Tusk To Tail, we were there. Naturally. Your writer flew into Dallas from Philadelphia at the crack of dawn Saturday to meet up with the Godfather of Tailgating, he who has attended every Razorback game in person (save one) since the hiring of Houston Nutt, the indefatigable Craig May. We were joined by crack sideline photographer Mark Wagner and new guy Rodney Chapel.
After a quick Starbucks run, Fort Worth native Rodney quickly navigated us to a Texas Rangers parking lot a short walk from AT&T Stadium. At $30 it was a steal compared to the Cowboys' $50 lots and private businesses who charged $80. $80! To park!
We then made our way through crowds of early tailgaters and past Cowboys signage paying tributes to legends like Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman to arrive at Lot 15, where our good friends Sam Atkinson and Clay Curtner had hoisted the Tusk To Tail tent.
For several hours on a beautiful fall morning/afternoon the group downed Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, nibbled on spicy cheese dip and sandwiches, enjoyed great conversation, and kept a close watch on early games (UGA struggling with the Vols? What does it mean?). By the time a Dallas Police Officer rolled past the tent on a golf cart and CALLED THE FREAKIN' HOGS, we knew it was going to be a special day.
Now if you've never been to AT&T Stadium (Home of the Dallas Cowboys, "Jerry World") you owe it to yourself to make the trip; to enjoy the sweeping outdoor plazas with monster HDTV screens; to relax in the covered bar area inside the stadium gates; to witness the glory of this football palace unlike any other in the world. It is truly something special.
Once our group – joined by our buddy Thane Chisolm – made it inside we briefly hooked up with TTT's Dale Cullins who had wife, daughter and sister-in-law in tow. We quickly decided to ditch our upper deck seats in favor of the standing room section in (you guessed it) a bar above the A&M end zone. From there, along with another wolfpack of Razorback faithful we cheered throughout the game with passion. Maybe too much passion. As the first half concluded we drew the ire of a frustrated A&M Co-Ed who labeled us "annoying" and asked us to change seats. We declined.
Despite that, the Aggie fan base is a good lot overall. And as their team rallied late in the game they were loud. But Hog fans, too, made a fantastic showing for the state of Arkansas. Overall the energy in the stadium was tremendous throughout, a testament to the quality of the game being played on the field.
Now if there's one way to make this annual SEC showdown even better it's this: Lower ticket prices. With Southwest Classic tickets starting at $85 and going as high as $400 the average fan is getting priced out of seeing the game in person. While 2/3 of AT&T Stadium was filled Saturday there were large swaths of empty seats in the upper deck and even on the second level. Why not start the nosebleeds in the $30-$40 range and go from there? Incentivize more people to make the trip from South Arkansas or College Station. Convince the countless Hog and Aggie fans who live in the DFW MetroPlex to come to the games with their kids.
Are you listening Jerry Jones? Jeff Long? Mike Slive?
It's the only sure way to guarantee the annual Southwest Classic a true classic.
That, and a Razorback win, of course.