MINNEAPOLIS — The first was redemption.
The second, third and fourth were routine.
And the fifth put Michigan place kicker K.C. Lopata in the record books.
“They weren’t the prettiest balls in the world, but first and foremost, did they go in?” Lopata said.
One that didn’t go in this season was likely still fresh in his mind. Since missing a 26-yard kick with four seconds left against Toledo last month to secure Michigan’s shocking 13-10 loss, Lopata had kicked just one field goal in the last three games: a 27-yarder against Penn State on Oct. 18.
But he made up for that by scoring 17 total points Saturday and tying the single-game school record with five field goals. The last Wolverine to kick five was J.D. Carlson against Illinois in 1990.
Lopata made 44- and 34-yard field goals in the first quarter, a 26-yarder in the second and 48- and 28-yard kicks in the third quarter. And instead of kicking in the 30-degree, snowy Minnesota weather, he couldn’t have picked a more advantageous place for his kicking game to shine — the cozy confines of the Metrodome.
“I was really proud of K.C.,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Some of those balls he kicked looked really ugly, you know? He was really driving the ball pretty good. I would think if you’re a kicker or punter, there ain’t nothing better than kicking indoors.”
Lopata didn’t have to brave the elements, but he had to deal with the crowd. The noise from the 55,040 fans at the Metrodome, combined with the marching band and announcer’s voice, echoed off the dome’s ceiling.
“It’s always a bit of an adrenaline rush when you step on the field,” Lopata said. “You don’t always feel totally comfortable with it, which I like. I like the rush going out.”
Still empty: Because the Wolverines won’t play Minnesota again until 2011, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster can probably remove the empty Little Brown Jug trophy case from its motivational spot in the players’ lounge at the Gophers’ football complex.
“It’s a daily reminder of what we don’t have,” Minnesota sophomore quarterback Adam Weber told the Minnesota Daily three days before the game. “I think it needs to be filled.”
But it was the Wolverines who were eying the Jug near the end of the game as it sat behind the Michigan bench with less than a minute left on the clock.
And as soon as the game ended, the players flocked to the trophy. Safety Brandon Harrison pretended to drink out of the Jug on the field. Linebacker Obi Ezeh and wide receiver Greg Mathews walked to the edge of the stands and pointed to the cheering Michigan fans in the upper bowl in celebration.
The Wolverines took home the trophy for the third straight season and haven’t lost the trophy in Minnesota since 1977.
And this year’s win had to feel three times as good for the Wolverines.
“Oh, man,” safety Charles Stewart said. “That means so much. My senior year, going out, bringing it home. We lost a couple of rivalry games. That sucked. But to win this rivalry game and get that jug, it’s huge. It’s huge.”
Injury report: Running on the field and laughing with his teammates after the win, redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet looked as excited as if he had started the game.
He watched Saturday’s game from the sidelines, wearing a headset and warm-ups, while still recovering from a concussion suffered in the fourth quarter against Purdue. Rodriguez said Threet’s status for next week against Northwestern is “to be determined,” but then said he thought Threet would be OK to play.
Two Wolverines who sat out last week — freshman running back Sam McGuffie and redshirt freshman safety Michael Williams, who both suffered concussions against Michigan State — returned to the field Saturday.
Michigan junior running back Brandon Minor went to the locker room near the end of the third quarter with a possible separated shoulder, and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines without pads.
Redshirt freshman center David Molk injured his toe near the end of the game, forcing redshirt junior guard David Moosman to shift to center.
Note: With 43 receptions, wide receiver Martavious Odoms now holds the Michigan record for the most receptions by a freshman. Odoms had seven catches for 43 yards Saturday, and during the first quarter, he broke Steve Breaston’s record of 38 receptions in 2003.