September 29, 2006
Varsity thirsty for 'M' should breeze past Gophers
By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Editor
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder"
Those words flowed from Michigan
coach Lloyd Carr's mouth during his
weekly press conference on Monday.
No, he wasn't giving advice about long-
distance relationships or mending broken
friendships. He was referring to something
his football team lost last season for the
first time since 1987: the Little Brown Jug.
And he wants it back on Saturday when
his sixth-ranked Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten,
4-0 overall) travel to Minneapolis to face
conference foe Minnesota (0-1, 2-2).
"I love the Little Brown Jug'" Carr said.
"I think looking back atlit, the history, the
tradition of that trophy, it's the oldest in
college football history."
Carr continued, saying that although
college football's most storied trophy
may not be on the minds of the fans and
the media, it certainly plays a part in the
preparation for Saturday's game.
"If you're a Michigan football player, if
you're a Minnesota football player, I guar-
antee you care," Carr said.
The history of the battle for the Little
Brown Jug dates back to 1903. On Hal-
loween, Michigan traveled to meet Min-
nesota in a highly anticipated battle. The
Wolverines had won 28 straight games
under their new coach, Fielding H. Yost,
and were eager to travel west to play the
Yost was worried about Minnesota fans
tampering with his team's water supply,
so he had a manager purchase a jug from
a store nearby. That jug, purchased 103
years ago, was and still remains the Little
The game in 1903 ended in a 6-6 draw,
and following the game, the Wolverines
forgot to take the jug back with them to
Days later, Yost wrote a letter to Min-
nesota asking for the jug back.
The letter was given to L.J. Cooke, the
Gophers' athletic director, who replied,
"We have your little brown jug; if you want
I i s
After a five-year hiatus in the series, the
Wolverines did just that. In 1909, they beat
Minnesota to reclaim the jug.In every sub-
sequent matchup between the two tears,
it's has been up for grabs.
Carr, like every coach who preceded
him, loves the history that goes with the
Jug. He quizzes players, young and old,
about the jug during game week.
"Terrance Taylor volunteered to tell the
other players about it. He knew the essen-
tials. He knew the fundamental story,"
Carr said. "Carson Butler (knows about
it). There's a guy who has only been here a
year. I know they're paying attention"
Last season's matchup is one game in
the 88-game series that sticks out in the
minds of all of the Michigan players. The
Gophers used their zone blocking scheme
to break several long runs en route to a 23-
20 upset victory. Though Michigan play-
ers are told to put the pasthbehind them, the
memory still occasionally seeps into the
minds of some.
"It means a lot - it's always a bad feel-
ing when you lose the jug," linebacker
David Harris said. "It's a rivalry game,
they beat us last year and it's just not a
good feeling. It's just a bad feeling and a
bad experience to be the team that loses
the jug since we had itso long. It eats you
Michigan had won 16 straight gamesj
in the series before last season's loss. The
Wolverines also hold a sizeable series lead
(63-22). But the past matchups and current
records are thrown out the window when-
ever these two teams meet - the last three
meetings have been decided by just three
points each time.
Harris and his teammates don't care
about the final score; they just want to
bring the jug back to Ann Arbor.
After watching the Gophers rush to the
Michigan sideline as the clock struck00:00
last season, Harris hopes he can return the
favor at the Metrodome on Saturday.
"Oh yeah, I'll be over there if we win
it," said Harris, one of the fifth-year
seniors on the team. "We've gotta win the
game first, so you can't really think about
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Editor
It was a microcosm of Michigan's 2005
Minnesota had the ball deep in its own end
with the score tied at 20 and the game bound
for overtime. That is, until Gary Russell broke a
61-yard run, and Minnesota kicked a field goal
to win the game and capture the Little Brown
Jug for the first time in 19 years.
But the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten,4-0 overall)
have proven so far that they're a different team
from last year's. After a slow start in its first two
games, now-No. 6 Michigan handily defeated
Notre Dame at South Bend and grounded outa
Big Ten opening win against Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Gophers (0-1, 2-2) have
struggled recently. In its Big Ten opener, Glen
Mason's squad lost a close contest to Purdue.
Here's how the two teams break down:
Michigan running offense vs. Minnesota
In four gamesthe Wolverines' running game
would make former coach Bo Schembechler
smile. Michigan has returned to smash-mouth
football. Running back Mike Hart has averaged
1192 yards per game.
Lining up on the other side, the Minnesota
defense has given up more than 100 yards rush-
ing in three of its first four games. Even though
the Gophers' front seven sees a zone-blocking
scheme like Michigan's every day in prac-
tice, expect Michigan to run over, around and
through Minnesota's 'D'.
Michigan passing offense vs. Minnesota
Quarterback Chad Henne struggled against
Wisconsin, throwing three interceptions. Still,
he completed 18 passes, and opposing defens-
es haven't figured out how to cover wideout
Mario Manningham. Even more bad news for
the Gophers: Junior Adrian Arrington stepped
out of the shadows last week when he collected
79 yards on four receptions. With the Wolver-
ine passing attack finally finding its wings, the
Minnesota secondary will have a tough time
stopping all of Michigan's options. Last week,
Minnesota gave up0245 yards to Purdue. Look
for the Gophers to stuff the box, and Henne
will take advantage with the deep hall.
Michigan rushing defense vs. Minnesota
When Michigan and its vaunted front four
travels to the Metrodome this Saturday, it'll
face probably its toughest test this season. The
Gophers average 226.8 yards on the ground
even without Wolverine-killer Gary Russell,
who left the team for academic reasons. Amir
Pinnix has picked up the loadfor Glen Mason,
who has always been a run-first coach. Pinnix
leads the team in rushing (386 yards) and ran
for 172 yards against Purdue last week. But the
Michigan defense is familiar with the zone-
blocking scheme the offense runs in practice,
which is similar to Minnesota's. And it has
abused opposing running backs. Michigan
hasn't surrendered a 100-yard rushing game
yet this season, and with Alan Branch and
company, don't look for Minnesota to break
Michigan passing defense vs. Minnesota
The Wolverines' secondary lookedconfused
early in last Saturday's game. But it recovered
nicely after giving up an early touchdown
off a John Stocco checkdown pass to a wide-
open Hill. The best part of the Wolverine pass
defense is the heavy pressure itputs on the quar-
terback. Stocco threw 42 times but was hurried
numerous times by the Michigan pass rush and
sacked four times. Minnesota's Bryan Cupito
has put up solid numbers this season (742 yards
and seven touchdowns), but against a pass rush
as strong as Michigan's, it will be tough for him
to find an open receiver. Michigan's defense
should dominate the point of attack, and defen-
sive coordinator Ron English will definitely
bring the pressure.
Early this season, the Michigan kickoff
and punt coverage teams struggled to contain
opponents' return men. But against Wisconsin,
the units stood out. They knocked around the
Badgers' returners and forced a key fumble.
Michigan should regain the Jug on Saturday.
Meanwhile, senior Steve Breaston looks like
he's back. The career Big Ten record holder for
return yards, Breaston totaled 119 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota's
kicker, Jason Giannini, has missed one field
goal out of five attempts. With both teams
focused on running the ball, field position will
play a tremendous role. Breaston should give
Michigan a short field more often than not, and
punter Zoltan Mesko and gunner Darnell Hood
should pin Minnesota deep in its own end.
This week, the Michigan football players
claimed they had forgotten about the humilia-
tion of last season's loss to the Gophers. Butbet
on the thought of that Minnesota flag planted on
the 50-yard line resonating in the team's mind.
Carr and his players want the Little Brown Jug
back. Michigan should come out and get it.
Michigan 27Minnesota 6