Tusk to Tail: A post-Texas euphoria, afterglow and reserve stash of tequila
It was a party 40 years in the making. Texas was back in Fayetteville, but after the Razorbacks smoked the #15 Longhorns 40-21, the whole state of Arkansas has let it be known. Texas is definitely not back.
Saturday was the Longhorns’ first return to Fayetteville since intercepting Matt Jones on an attempted comeback drive in 2004. Texas is 25-10 against the Hogs in games played in Arkansas. The last time the Razorbacks beat Texas in Fayetteville was Oct. 17, 1981, a 42-11 shellacking of the #1 Longhorns.
The Hogs have beaten the Horns since then. In fact, Arkansas is 4-2 over their former rival since leaving the Southwest Conference at the end of 1991. But if you grew up in the Natural State in the 80s or before as did Tusk to Tail, despising Texas came as naturally as hating Russia.
Recent developments could help rekindle the rivalry for future generations. Last summer, Texas announced they would join Arkansas in the SEC along with Oklahoma in 2025. Also, roughly one in four UA students now comes from the Lone Star state, typically after being denied admission to UT’s burnt orange ivory tower. That Texas elitism is a major factor in why we hate them.
The recent announcement that Big 12 refs would penalize players for making the “Horns Down” hand signal only fanned the flames. The infamous gesture was seen on shirts, hats, and stickers Saturday. Fans, players, and even the crosswalk sign in front of Victory Village got in on the Horns Down act.
Calling the game for ESPN, Greg McElroy said our fans seemed to hate Texas more than they actually liked Arkansas. As a former Alabama quarterback who grew up in Dallas, he should know.
There was substantial buildup to this matchup. The stakes seemed higher than a typical early season non-conference game.
“The SEC. It just means more,” as they say on McElroy’s station.
A considerable portion of the Arkansas workforce appeared to have taken Friday off. Fans began steadily streaming into town in time for lunch. By happy hour, traffic was backed up throughout Northwest Arkansas as bars and restaurants quickly filled beyond capacity. Some friends attended the fall baseball scrimmage, but our group had a few rounds at Maxine’s before stumbling up the square to Xuma Kitchens for dinner. We felt lucky to be seated quickly and reminisced about the nearly lethal Long Island Teas served at the same location in the 90s when it was Cafe Santa Fe.
Sam and Dale, TTT’s Colonel Potter and Radar O’Reilly, still had some last minute tailgating prep to take care of. We ended our night out by driving down Dickson Street around 9:30. The streets and sidewalks were overflowing with revelers, and nearly every establishment had a line waiting to get in. Our friends who stayed out until 2 said it never let up.
Kickoff was at 6 p.m. Saturday, which meant that TTT wanted to set up the tailgate around 7:30 that morning. We’re special that way. I told Forrest, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”
“Can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning,” he replied after we got the industrial size margarita machine up and running.
The machine was a rental, and probably a tad excessive even by Tusk to Tail standards. It required coupling two generators to run it, and couldn’t completely freeze the margaritas in the 90 degree heat. They still came out cold and refreshing, as our guests drained 10 gallons of slushy margaritas. Due to a potential rounding error, we had enough tequila leftover to make another 15 gallons.
The reserve stash of tequila was about the only thing to make it out of the Big Top intact. Every other ounce of liquid was either consumed, spilled, or evaporated. We went through 440 pounds of ice, and needed more. Stacked cases of water, multiple giant coolers filled with soft drinks or beer and seltzers, a large carafe of Gatorade and a backup supply of drinking water all ran dry, as did two cases of booze. If we had more of anything, it would have been drunk too. We estimate serving 150 guests, and feeding at least 125.
By 11 a.m., all of Victory Village and the surrounding HogTown on Maple Street was awash in noise. There were giant speakers playing tailgate playlists, TVs with extra speakers to amplify the football games, and roughly 100 gas generators to power the tailgate tents and street festival. Thousands of fans, young and old, visited, laughed, and played with one another. It got so loud under our tent that the band Funk Factory was well into their set on the HogTown stage before I realized they were playing.
Simply put, it was a bigtime college football atmosphere all weekend long, punctuated by an A-list of visiting football dignitaries, including SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, the casts of SEC Nation and other ESPN programs, and amateur epidemiologist Clay Travis. You could feel a tangible euphoria and afterglow from Friday until Sunday all around the campus, town, and probably the entire state. If someone wasn’t enjoying themself, it was probably because they had enjoyed themselves a little too much earlier. That spirit carried into the game.
The first sellout crowd in four years set an attendance record of 74,571. Fans striped the stadium dressed in red or white, designated by section. A large portion of the crowd never sat down, even during punts. The dj and scoreboard operator kept the entire stadium singing and dancing through timeouts. Coach Muss and the basketball team were back, sitting together in their jerseys just like high school. And nobody left early, even once the game was in hand.
The SEC chant and storming the field might have been a little amateurish, but it’s been a minute since Hog fans have experienced anything like this on the gridiron. Postgame victory parties, 40 years in the making, raged throughout Victory Village. I didn’t make it back down to Dickson Street, but I can only imagine the carnage.
Forrest told me he might be a little “drunj.” Fifteen hours of drinking can really sneak up on you.
Saturday’s domination of Texas has our gang feeling some kind of way. We unanimously love the direction of the program under Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek. From the coaches he has hired, including Sam Pittman and Muss, through his associate staff responsible for the incredible gameday atmosphere and social media, every single one of them is absolutely crushing it. The Razorbacks entered this week’s poll at #20, football’s highest ranking in 5 years.
Still, I can’t help but feel a little awkward. Tusk to Tail has been the anti-establishment voice of disenfranchised Hog fans for the past 10 years. Now we’re backing the establishment? Does that make us franchised?
I know at least two things. First, Texas is nowhere close to being back. Seriously, Rice put up more of a fight. Secondly, as the entire state basks in the throes of HogMania, it won’t mean a thing if Pittman’s Hogs blow it next week against Georgia Southern.
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.