story by Jeff Laman
Editor’s note: Welcome to the fifth season of Tusk to Tail – 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. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Tusk to Tail is managed by Talk Business & Politics against the advice of attorneys and family. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
The game against Virginia Tech was a dumpster fire in the second half. People were excited in the first half as the Hogs raced out to a 24-0 lead, but as we know, the Missouri game basically started the same way.
I’d said to a few friends, “Let’s see what happens in the 2nd half,” but I didn’t expect the script to be followed so closely. I wasn’t alone in predicting a loss, but we certainly didn’t expect that. While the sky isn’t falling, there are definitely problems with the football program.
Backing up though, Dale Cullins, Craig May, and Mark Wagner set out from Little Rock early Wednesday morning and proceeded to drive through the southeast. They arrived in the outer parts of Atlanta in the afternoon to pick me up and we were on our way to Charlotte. Craig’s driving helped us roll through the legendary Atlanta traffic relatively unscathed. We made it to the Queen City in time for the KATV Bowl Special hosted by Craig’s brother, Chris. We ended up making an appearance at the end of the show with some other Hog fans who’d gathered to watch while standing in the cold. Afterward, we went for some food and then on to bed to rest for the long day in front of us.
The next morning, we geared up and left our hotel. We made a run to Walmart and Chick Fil-A to get supplies for the tailgate hosted by Randall and Sherrie Ford as well as Mike and Brittany Cleveland. Mike made a tasty gumbo for everyone to enjoy. The day was gorgeous if chilly and the location was excellent facing the Bank of America Stadium. Chris did a little work for KATV and then was able to join us for the day of tailgating.
The Hokie fan base is one that’s often been favorably compared to those of the SEC. We found that to be true based on the group of Va Tech fans next to us who were very friendly. If it was purely from a fan perspective the athletic director could do much worse than filling the gaps on the 2018 and 2020 schedules with them. From a team perspective it’s doubtful we’d play them again, if only to avoid bringing up any mention of the Belk Bowl.
We met a couple of Arkansas natives and Razorback fans such as Chase Grounds and Frank Watson who had migrated to Virginia and made friends or found wives of Va Tech grads. Frank’s daughter had Razorback earrings on with a Hokies shirt, but informed us that she’d don a Razorback sweatshirt for the game.
Somewhere along the way Chris Driver aka @Jerkwheatery on Twitter showed up. He’s one of the more prominent, funny and passionate Razorback fans out on the internet, and he did not disappoint. He was born in Northwest Arkansas and grew up on the northeastern side of the state before his family moved to Michigan for his high school years. He lives in Washington D.C. now and reps the Hogs well.
The Tech fans offered us samples of Virginia moonshine that tasted like apple pie. In addition to the moonshine, the Hokie fans offered small cups of something they called Sweet Tarts. We aren’t sure what was included other than orange soda and lots of booze. We were asked to call the Hogs at one point and Chris Driver took the mantle of leading it. He did a great job and ended up with his picture on the front page of the Roanoke Times. The paper also took a group picture of the two fan bases together, which also ended up in print.
We made our way to the stadium and ended up sitting on the 25 yard line behind the Razorback bench. The stadium had excellent video boards on each end, offering a split screen with different views of replays on each one. It was helpful, primarily in the first half when many critical plays were reviewed.
Looking ahead, it was widely expected that changes will be coming on the coaching staff even before the results of this game. Those should be coming quickly now that the bowl season is over save for the National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson. There’s no way to know who might be joining the staff especially since a good portion of the fan base isn’t particularly happy with the Head Hog at the moment. It’s also hard to understand what the athletic director was thinking in giving a coach with a 6-6 season a massive buyout increase back in 2014.
Regardless of how this plays out, Tusk to Tail’s allegiance to the Razorbacks is unwavering. We’ll be ready in 8 months when the team returns to the field once again.