It was clear Saturday was going to be different from the moment we stepped outside. Drizzling rain, cold gusty breezes, and temperatures in the 40s is not what Tusk to Tail expected for an early season mid-afternoon game in West Texas.
In just a few hours, most of us would experience various degrees of sunburn and intoxication, reveling in the Hogs' convincing victory at Texas Tech. But there was no joy in Lubbock as we began setting up our tents in the cold, gray, wet morning.
Finding a tailgate location on the road can be tricky. Our two tents require a couple of hundred square feet, plus some area for crowd overflow. The only areas available to visiting fans was on the other side of the highway from campus, "on the edge of the ghetto," according to a parking attendant. Chick-Fil-A offered game day parking for $30, and since we were the only idiots setting up in the cold early morning rain, we were able to commandeer an entire corner of green space while our other vehicle parked free on the street.
Chick-Fil-A may be as well known for its Christian ideals as their delicious yardbird, but their Lubbock customers must not have gotten the memo. As the Tech fans exited the drive-through line, many greeted our group of Razorback fans with catcalls and a one-finger salute that differed remarkably from their infamous "guns up" sign. One diner apparently ordered biscuits and jelly, shouting something to us that sounded like "Smucker's."
More Arkansas fans began setting up tents next to us once the rain stopped. The parking lot began to look like it could be in Fayetteville, complete with two inflatable Razorback mascots amid multiple mobile parties. Boisterous Hog calls frequently bellowed across the lot, giving us a sense of safety in numbers.
Despite tailgating at a chicken joint, lunch was brought in from Torchy's Tacos. Chicken fajita tacos and their fire-roasted street corn were served with Dale's cheese dip and enough sweet tea vodka to float a canoe, including a bottle of John Daly's signature brand of vodka cocktail that Sean Casey added to the mix. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, so it only seemed proper to pour some on the ground in memorial to Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy's death earlier in the week.
Of course Tusk to Tail didn't drive over 650 miles just to drink vodka, eat tacos, and have insults hurled at us. We can do that at home. We came to see the Razorbacks vanquish their old Southwest Conference foe.
The game got off to a shaky start, with a muffed punt and some early gimmicky play calling by Arkansas. But once the Hogs turned to the one-two punch of running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, the team was able to impose its will. Arkansas took a touchdown lead into halftime, and was getting the ball again to start the second half.
Texas Tech allows re-entry to their stadium, a rarity in the modern age of stadium security. It seemed as though they were practically begging us to go back to the car for another round during halftime. We did not disappoint. By the time we returned, the second half had just begun, and we took our seats in the front row of the second deck, just a couple of rows in front of former coach Ken Hatfield, the last head Hog to earn a victory in Lubbock, exactly 25 years ago.
By this point the sun was shining and the mercury had risen to the mid-60s. It was nice to finally get a glimpse of what Coach Bret Bielema is trying to achieve at Arkansas against quality competition. Our running game was unstoppable, and our defense consistently swarmed to the ball and seemed to tackle better. The Red Raider's marching band showed true class by playing the Arkansas fight song.
One of the great joys following a road win is wearing your team colors out for a night on the town. In Lubbock, Nick's Sports Bar was our destination. To the victor belongs the spoils, and in this case, the spoils were overpriced pub grub and large draft beers.
Nick's offers open seating, so the only way to get a table is to grab one as the previous occupants leave. However, most of the clientele were there to watch that night's games, forcing Tusk to Tail to share a couple of tables with strangers. Their fans, insufferable just a few hours earlier, were quite gracious in defeat.
It was difficult to tell whether the Raider fans were humbled by the loss or mellowed by a night of drinking. My personal opinion is that Lubbock is so desolate and deprived that they were nice in hopes that Tusk to Tail would offer them a ride out of town. But our group of fans, basking in the afterglow of the rare road win, as well as the literal glow of our sunburned faces, felt a sense of joy for the first time in years.