Tusk to Tail: … and then they showed up in a Buick LeSabre
Human beings have an innate ability to adjust to their surroundings. People are able to adjust to and survive in wildly varying climates all over this planet, from humid rain forests to deserts to arctic wastelands. Arkansans have likewise adjusted to their environment, that of being fans of the Razorbacks in 2019.
As members of the Tusk to Tail crew began unloading the tailgate trailer at 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning, not a complaint was heard. Nobody groused about setting up the food tables before sunrise. No one lamented the fact that the Hogs were an 18.5-point home underdog.
As the albeit light crowd began arriving to our tailgate spot around 8:30, people were in a surprisingly good mood, sampling the donuts, kolaches and egg sandwiches. Everyone has adjusted to this part of cheering on the Hogs lately with a majority of gameday pregame festivities involving breakfast food and Bloody Marys.
I overheard some people getting their gameday Facebook picture taken. Instead of yelling “Cheese,” the father in the group muttered “Cover the spread!” Such is life during this phase of Hog fandom.
While the company at the tailgate was great, with only College Gameday on the televisions, there was no compelling reason to loiter near our tailgate until the last minute. Game time neared, and as our contingent started to shuffle toward the stadium, it felt more like people trudging to work on a Monday morning than the customary pregame walk. We didn’t hear any Hog calls, much less taunting of opposing fans.
We settled in and prepared for the inevitable against the 11th ranked Tigers, and the expected occurred quickly. Ben Hicks trotted out for the first series. Everyone assumed he would start, but the decision didn’t exactly scream, “We are going to throw everything at you to try to win!” It’s more like showing up to a drag race driving a Buick LeSabre.
Hicks fumbled on our own 26-yard line while attempting a pass on the third play from scrimmage, and Auburn recovered. Three plays later they found the end zone to make it 7-0 Tigers. After another three and out by the Hogs, Auburn gobbled up 63 yards in four plays to make it 14-0 after just five minutes into the game. I noticed after the second touchdown that it was eerily quiet in the stadium. No fans yelling profanity, no angry jeers at Coach Morris – almost a hushed acceptance of the events unfolding on the field. We have grown almost content with being an SEC bottom feeder.
At one point in the game, the promotions department had a great idea for a stadium sing along. The song choice, “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, seemed a bit curious. The people in my section joked, are the fans the friends in low places? The coaching staff? At least they didn’t choose “Loser” by Beck.
“I got a couple of couches, sleep on the love seat.”
A sports journalist would be required to provide a full recap of the game, but thankfully yours truly is not a sports journalist. I will state that on the positive side, you have to admit our defense played well for a half. Through 30 minutes of play, the Hogs held Auburn to 17 points, often when given a short field to defend. They even held the Tigers on a few third downs and one fourth and very short.
As an eternal optimist, it appears that the defensive schemes are solid, but as the game wears on, our lack of depth shows. The big negative, of course, had to be the comically bad fake punt throw play. It was just plain terrible, like True Detective season 2 terrible, if everyone in the show wore Arkansas football’s 1994 Apex uniforms.
After the game, people filed out of Reynolds Razorback Stadium like it was just another day at the office. We have certainly adjusted to the losses. However, I spoke Saturday morning to the parents of a player. They say their son loves playing for this coaching staff. They also think Coach Morris is the right man for this job, and I for one believe them.
Will it take time? Absolutely. But if they are able to transform the program, Hog fans will be happy to adjust to winning again.
Editor’s note: Now in its eighth 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. Tusk to Tail sponsors are the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship program and Turn Key Construction Management. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.