Tusk to Tail: A good time was being had by all, and then the game started
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Heading into the Georgia weekend, the Razorback faithful felt pretty confident, and with good reason. Expectations have been at an all time low the past four years, but wins against two ranked opponents and old Southwest Conference rivals have rocketed the Razorbacks to a #8 national ranking and a welcome helping of praise by the national sports media.
Like most people, I felt like this matchup was a no-lose proposition. Any team is supposed to lose on the road to the #2 team in the country, but we have been surprising people all year. We were ready to mix it up with Georgian and see how we compete.
For me, this was my first time in Athens since 1993, when three of my fraternity brothers and I went to Atlanta for spring break. Athens in the early 90’s was one of the hottest alternative music scenes in the country. As die hard R.E.M. fans, we made the pilgrimage to Athens’ 40 Watt Club, the location of R.E.M.’s first gig. The B-52’s, Indigo Girls and several other bands populated our compact disc collection. My friends and I still recall the trip fondly.
The trip this weekend was strictly about the football though. While Dale and other members of Tusk to Tail took the scenic route by car, our foursome flew in Thursday night. We decided on a whim to catch the Braves-Phillies game. I made sure we got to Truist Park in plenty of time, directed Chad to order the Stubhub tickets, and charged to the stadium to make sure we were there in plenty of time. Unfortunately, once we sat down, I realized I got us to the ballpark for a 6:20 central start time, but first pitch was 7:20 eastern time.
“Jeb, at least you lead with confidence, even if you are way off on the facts,” Eric said.
“Lead with confidence” became the catchphrase for the weekend.
Once we got to the park, we learned that a Braves victory would clinch the division for Atlanta. The Braves won the game and clinched, and we declared amongst ourselves that our presence pushed them to the NL East division title. During the game, Twitter rumors started that Georgia’s starting quarterback, JT Daniels, was questionable with a lat injury. These were good omens for sure.
Friday was more of the same. At brunch, Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean ate with some recruits a few tables over from us. Basking in the news of five star recruit Nick Smith’s commitment to the hoops Hogs earlier in the week, we joked that Crean must be recruiting the lesser players that couldn’t make Musselman’s roster. The Twitter video of the “Childs Please” play which beat Georgia in 2011 popped up on our phones, prompting several replays.
As we made the rounds at El Barrio taco bar, The 5 restaurant, Creature Comforts Brewing Company (we highly recommend the delicious FYM Lager) and Cutters Pub, we ran into plenty of Hog fans. We traveled well, and yelled a rowdy “Woo Pig” and “How bout them Hogs!” to those we encountered. The night ended with some scattered, smothered and covered hashbrowns at Georgia based Waffle House, a tailgate group staple.
Saturday morning, we joined forces with Dale’s caravan and the Farmington Mafia for the tailgate. I made sure we had a Georgia-based breakfast, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuits. Our field general Dale supplied the John Dalys and other beverages, and about 40 people stopped by, a great turnout for a game on the opposite geographic side of the conference.
“Today is the day we beat Georgia!” I repeated.
I was, of course, leading with confidence. We even stated that Georgia fans would likely need their bulldog mascot, Uga, as an emotional support animal.
Then the game started.
To note, Sanford stadium seats around 94,000. Their fans showed up, and were one of the loudest crowds I can remember. The first few Razorback series, it was too loud to carry on a conversation with the person next to you. The crowd and the Bulldog defense removed any doubt who was the better team, thoroughly frustrating our offense into mistakes and abysmal execution. When Georgia had the ball, the person playing quarterback didn’t matter. Their backup quarterback simply handed it off to their running backs, who scored at will behind that massive offensive line. The Hogs were overwhelmed and out of the contest early. Halfway through the third quarter, we noticed our fan section had not called the Hogs a single time. There was nothing to celebrate that warranted that cheer.
And of course there were the penalties. I am not sure what the school record for penalties in a game is, but we did our best to break that record. Offense, defense, special teams all contributed to the effort. When Arkansas received the ball to start the second half, we assumed Coach Pittman lit a fire under his team and we would see some improvement. Three plays later, each play with a penalty, and again we were forced to punt from inside the 10 yard line.
Later in the second half, the Arkansas defense committed three (three!) separate penalties on one play, two by the same player. While we gathered our crew to cut our losses leave early in the fourth quarter, the Georgia fans started the “Over-rated!” chant to our section. As we witnessed, it was not so much that we are overrated, but Georgia is just that good. Like, maybe better than Alabama good.
So, are there any positives to take away from this beatdown? First, that offensive line that pushed us around was recruited by Sam Pittman, as were several other players on that roster. About 35 Georgia players lined up after the game to get a hug from their old coach. Pittman knows how to recruit and build an SEC squad. It is also clear that his former players love their coach, and it sounds like he is building those same relationships in Fayetteville.
As I said, this Georgia team is special. A lot of teams will be hurting the Saturday they play the Bulldogs. But it’s not the end of the world as I know it, and I feel fine about our team.
Our next opponent, the Mississippi Black Bear Rebel Sharks, got manhandled by Alabama this weekend. We beat them in Fayetteville last year, and we will not be intimidated. I may be leading with confidence, but I don’t see that they have a physical advantage on us. Let’s throw away the game tape from this debacle and move on to next week. Beat Ole Miss!
Its not the end of the world as we know. But we should feel fine.
Editor’s note: Now in its 10th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.