MINNEAPOLIS – Saturday’s Michigan-Minnesota game ended the same way the past 13 had: With the Wolverines running onto the field, dancing around while holding the Little Brown Jug. Michigan now holds a 65-23-3 record in this lopsided rivalry and has won 31 of the last 33 games between the two schools.
A big, old, reddish-brown jug inscribed with the results of each of the teams’ meetings is hardly the prettiest trophy in football.
“It is an ugly trophy, but it is something that means a lot,” captain Victor Hobson said.
Despite the Wolverines’ dominance and the trophy’s lack of attractiveness, the Little Brown Jug has lost no prominence with the team.
“I really respect the tradition of the Little Brown Jug,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “It’s one of the greatest traditions in college football and we were able to hold onto it.”
The fact that the trophy is the oldest in college football is the major reason the teams covet it.
“The history of the trophy makes it very important to our program,” fullback B.J. Askew said.
For Minnesota native Bennie Joppru, who played the Gophers for the final time, winning the trophy has extra significance as a captain.
“Six months ago, if you would have told me I would be carrying the Jug for the team when we go back to (Minneapolis) … It’s something that when I was elected captain I was looking forward to, if I had the opportunity,” Joppru said.
Michigan has never lost the Little Brown Jug under Carr, who is now 6-0 against Minnesota.
Surf on turf: With the win, Michigan is now 9-0 against Minnesota in the Metrodome. The turf in the stadium is thinner than the FieldTurf that most schools are now playing on and that the Wolverines are considering installing next season. Illinois and Wisconsin already play on the innovative surface.
The thinner turf meant that the game speed was accelerated, something that the Michigan players believed worked to their advantage.
“The turf is obviously a fast surface. We enjoy playing on the surface and we felt we had the advantage there,” Hobson said.
“Playing on turf is fun sometimes – you feel a little bit faster, a little bit quicker on turf,” offensive lineman Tony Pape said. “I think it gives the advantage to the faster team and we were the faster team today.”
Still more injuries: Already weakened by injuries, the Michigan defense took another blow against Minnesota, when linebacker Zach Kaufman was lost for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.
Kaufman is the third linebacker to be lost for the season, joining Roy Manning and Lawrence Reid. Redshirt freshman Joey Sarantos stepped up nicely, but the depth of the team is still being tested.
“We are not a very healthy football team right now,” Carr said.
Safety Cato June returned to the field, but for only two plays. Carr said this was a last resort move as the secondary is even thinner than the linebacker corps. June said he would take more than two snaps against Wisconsin next week. Michigan will need him to, as cornerback Zia Combs and safety Julius Curry’s season status is still up in the air. Safety Ernest Shazor also did not play against the Gophers after coming down with turf toe in practice. Offensively, lineman Adam Stenavich is expected to be back next week.
Jackson sets record: Against Minnesota, cornerback Marlin Jackson notched his 16th pass breakup of the season, breaking Charles Woodson’s school record. But the breakup might be remembered more for the touchdown that never was than the record-breaker.
The play came in the second quarter when Gophers quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq overthrew his receiver and Jackson nearly picked off the ball, but he could not keep control of it. Had he intercepted it, there would have been little Minnesota could do to stop the return from earning Michigan six points.