Tusk to Tail: Zombie tailgaters
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This week marks the return of The Walking Dead, the television series set in a desolate landscape, virtually uninhabited by the living.
Tailgating this weekend in Fayetteville almost felt like partying amidst the zombie apocalypse. Last week I called those of us who return to the games every week, despite the team's lackluster performance, "brain dead morons.” Perhaps calling us zombies would have been more appropriate.
There were very few revelers as Tusk to Tail arrived on campus shortly before 10 a.m. I rode up with Craig May, our sons, and one of their friends. For the second time in six days, May was pulled over for speeding. For the second time in six days, he was given a warning. His Godfather reputation is beginning to get out of hand.
Some signs of life began to appear after lunch, but the majority of the tailgaters stayed away until just two or three hours before kickoff.
Several factors most likely affected attendance.
First, students of the University were away on fall recess, and very few returned to campus for the game. Based on the vast expanse of empty seats in the student section, it would not be surprising to see next year's holiday coordinate with the bye week of the Razorbacks.
The game itself may have kept fans at home, too. Kentucky and Arkansas both have losing records, and both teams have been ravaged by injuries. I told my father that the Hogs would debut the black, correction: "anthracite.” uniforms. He replied, "they are probably in mourning."
Of course the weather didn't help matters. It was clear with incredibly strong gusts of wind throughout the day. The wind wreaked havoc across the campus. Three portable toilets blew over at Victory Village, and an entire tailgating tent blew into a tree across the street in Lot 44. A misting rain began to fall just before kickoff while lightning on the horizon foreshadowed what was to come.
Freshman tailback Jonathan Williams provided plenty of flash on the field, streaking down the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown reception on the Razorbacks' first offensive play. He bolted down the opposite side for a 77 yarder as time expired in the first quarter to put the Hogs up 28-0. The plays bookended an hour delay called by the officials as the first wave of thunderstorms rolled through.
The lengthy delay sent many for the exits. It was announced that re-entry would be granted, but thousands of fans chose to drive home.
When life gives you lemons, Tusk to Tail cuts them into wedges, and places them in cocktails. There have been many advantages to moving our tailgate to Victory Village, but none more obvious than the proximity to the stadium.
I returned to our tent during the storm to find Dale Cullins and Greg Houser packing up the tailgate. I assisted them by making the liquor bottles lighter and giving them updates from the games on TV. By the time they packed up the televisions, our game had resumed, so I returned to the stadium to find my ride home.
Following an abbreviated halftime featuring American Idol host Randy Jackson granting a fan a "golden ticket" to sing on the show, the Razorbacks began the second half as dominant as the first. Around the time that quarterback Tyler Wilson threw his fifth touchdown pass for a 49-0 lead, it was becoming evident that a new larger band of storms was approaching quickly.
With the game's outcome clearly decided, Craig and I decided it was time to head back to Little Rock. May rarely leaves a game early, but the threat of another delay was becoming a certainty.
"We wouldn't be doing this if it was 10-7," he told his son as we exited the stadium.
Officials finally called the game late in the third quarter with the score 49-7, as the storms showed no signs of letting up. We drove much slower on the way home while the rain pelted us seemingly from every direction.
The weather could not dampen our mood. The Razorbacks enter the bye week on a two-game winning streak over conference opponents. Following the break, the Hogs return to Little Rock to take on Ole Miss.
Tusk to Tail looks forward to hosting Rebel fans on the War Memorial golf course. The setting may be less gentile than their hallowed Grove, but it hosts one hell of a party.
Hopefully there will be no zombie attacks.