“In the process of doing the things that we want to do, of changing our style of football and doing the things we’re doing, you know, it’s a painful process. But it’s one in which we believe 100 percent we’re going to get to where we want to go.”

Those are the words of a first-year head coach. A coach struggling to adjust his spread system to his players’ skills. Someone leading his program through one of its worst seasons.

Sounds like Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez, right?

It was Minnesota coach Tim Brewster last year.

A year ago, Brewster’s Golden Gophers stumbled through a 1-11 season with a freshman quarterback. He made those comments after 27-point loss to Illinois at home, in which his team was outgained by 300 yards.

This year, the Gophers already have seven wins and are in position for a New Year’s Day bowl — the program’s first since 1961. Sophomore quarterback Adam Weber is a legitimate dual threat, and wide receiver Eric Decker leads the conference in yards and receptions.

The Wolverines are in the middle of that process. Rodriguez’s team is on a five-game losing streak and has secured the program’s first losing season since 1967. They haven’t just blown leads in three straight games, but have also given up 21 unanswered points in each of them.

It appears as if the two teams have switched roles going into this year’s game. Minnesota has won the Little Brown Jug Trophy just four times in the last 40 years and never at the Metrodome. Michigan will miss out on a bowl for the first time in 34 years.

“Try to get a win,” said Rodriguez about what he wants to get out of the last three games. “It’s not fun to come after the game and not have that good feeling. Obviously to get a win. I want our guys to feel good after the ballgame and be able to sing ‘The Victors.’ “

And a win this week would mean more than others. A win against the Gophers would mean the Little Brown Jug Trophy stays in Ann Arbor at least until the teams play each other again in 2011.

That was the message on the bulletin board in Schembechler Hall this week.

“Let’s make sure we keep the jug!” it said. “Kick some butt and take some names!”

Running backs coach Fred Jackson is the only member of the Michigan staff that has coached in the rivalry. At the beginning of the week, the rest of the staff was mostly unaware of the story behind The Jug, the oldest trophy in college football.

Redshirt sophomore David Molk said the offensive line gave offensive line coach Greg Frey a lesson in the history of the trophy Sunday afternoon, much how former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would in the first team meaning the week of the Minnesota game.

In 1903, when the Wolverines traveled to play Minnesota, Michigan coach Fielding Yost was worried Gopher fans might contaminate the drinking water. So he had team manager Tommy Roberts buy a five-gallon container to carry water. After the game ended in a 6-6 tie to end Michigan’s 28-game winning streak, there was pandemonium at the stadium. In the mayhem, Michigan left the jug behind. Yost wrote a letter to Minnesota athletic director L.J. Cooke asking for the jug back, and the response said, “If you want it, you’ll have to win it.”

Rodriguez was aware of the rivalry before he took the job but learned more about it after taking the job. Earlier this week, the director of equipment operations and caretaker of the trophy, Jon Falk, gave Rodriguez a bit of a history lesson, which he passed on to the team during a meeting this week.

On the field and around the program, Rodriguez balancing his way of doing things with the tradition of Michigan football. When asked this week about Rodriguez’s adjustment, Brewster echoed what he said all last year.

“Implementing a new way of doing things, a new system, it’s a process,” Brewster said. “It takes time. … It’s a similar process to some of the things we went through last year.”

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