Tusk to Tail 2014: Something about balance and big boy pants

When the 6 p.m. kickoff for Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois was announced, Tusk to Tail knew that our fortunes had changed. Over the course of the past two dreaded “rebuilding years,” the Razorbacks were often forced to play at 11 a.m., making it difficult for the modern tailgater to become properly prepared for the inevitable shellacking of the Hogs. But now that Arkansas has scored 174 points in the past three games, drubbing our opponents by 66, 21, and 38 points, respectively, we no longer know what to think.

One thing was certain Saturday morning: It was going to be a glorious day. A cool breeze blew and the sun began to shine as the gang assembled the Tusk to Tailgate in Victory Village. Once Greg Houser’s trailer was unloaded, the bar was setup while televisions were hung.

Local television personality Angela Taylor stopped by and was promptly offered a drink, which she declined. It was only 9:30 a.m., after all, and she was still working. Back Yard Burger’s mobile grill arrived soon after for Chef Justin Eaton to grill bratwurst, hot dogs, and their signature thick, juicy, patties for the masses.

It has become apparent that tailgating is big business. The university rents each of the towering white canopies through a third party for up to $375 per game. Adding a second tent, as we have done, does not garner a discount. Each tent has at least one big screen TV, usually dedicated strictly to tailgating, and requiring a Tailgater mobile satellite dish to get cable channels.

Meanwhile, multiple caterers deliver meals to many of the tents, while others bring home-prepared feasts for a more personal touch. I’m sure that the money spent on red Solo cups each week alone would rival the Gross National Product of some lesser-developed countries.

Of course winning always brings out a crowd, and some tents appeared to have as many fans as the Hogs have points. Tusk to Tail had a group of guests from California at the Nicholls State game a couple of weeks ago, and we were joined by Mikey on holiday from the UK on Saturday. At this rate, we may hang a map with push pins for guests to designate how far they traveled for their pre-game festivities.

Saturday was extra special for yours truly, as my sisters Mari, Tina, and Lynn, along with most of their families, came to our tailgate. Coming from a large family generally requires a special occasion to bring us together. Weddings and major holidays are a given. The Razorback athletic department will be pleased to know that non-conference football games have been added to the list.

When it came to the game, most of Tusk to Tail felt that Arkansas was going to need to pass the ball effectively to beat the Huskies. Dominance in the running game was the key factor to our recent winning streak, but being one dimensional does little to prepare the Hogs for the Murderer’s Row of Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia in coming weeks.

So when the game began with Korliss Marshall’s 97-yard kickoff return, followed by Darius Philon’s 14-yard fumble return for a score to put Arkansas up 14-0 before the offense had even touched the ball, it was hard not to like our chances. The defensive and special teams scores were the first by a Razorback since 2011. Coach Bret Bielema’s patented balanced attack came to fruition as the Hogs’ 215 passing yards were exactly three more than they netted on the ground.

The only problem is that we still don’t know much about this Arkansas team. We have beaten the teams we are supposed to beat, convincingly. Now it’s time to put on our big boy pants to face the Aggies down in Dallas.