Minnesota attempts to take back Little Brown Jug

The Gophers have not won the Little Brown Jug trophy in nearly a decade.
Michigan linebacker Kenny Demens and running back Vincent Smith carry Little Brown Jug after the Wolverines defeated Minnesota 35-13 on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, at TCF Bank Stadium.
  • Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo
October 03, 2013

Cedric Thompson said he didn’t know anything about Gophers football — much less the Little Brown Jug — until Minnesota recruited him.

“I had no idea that we had four trophy games,” said Thompson, a California native. “I had no idea that we could go to the Rose Bowl.”

Minnesota has a chance to win the Little Brown Jug this weekend against Michigan.

The Little Brown Jug trophy originated in 1903 after the Gophers hosted a powerhouse Michigan squad.

After Minnesota tied the score at 6-6 late in the second half, fans stormed the field, and the game had to be called with two minutes left on the clock. Amid the chaos, Michigan left its earthenware water jug on the field.

Fielding Yost, Michigan’s head coach at the time, wrote a letter to L. J. Cooke, head of Minnesota’s athletics department, asking for the jug back.

Cooke was not so polite with his reply.

“If you want it,” he wrote, “you’ll have to win it.”

And with that, the legend of the Little Brown Jug was born.

Minnesota hasn’t won the trophy since 2005, but can take it back this Saturday.

That won’t be an easy task.

Michigan has won 21 of its past 22 games against Minnesota. The Wolverines, 4-0 this season, beat the Gophers 35-13 last year at TCF Bank Stadium.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said a win over Michigan would be a “defining moment” in the rebuilding process.

The Wolverines had a bye last week, after squeaking past nonconference opponents Connecticut and Akron in the weeks before.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner leads an explosive offense, which scored 100 points in its first two games but sputtered in its last two.

Gardner made his first start at quarterback last year against Minnesota. He dismantled the Gophers with his arm and legs, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another.

“I remember him just being real shifty,” Thompson said. “He’d be in the pocket and out of nowhere, he’d just scramble.”

Thompson said the team has moved on after the loss to Iowa last weekend and is ready to rebound this weekend in its 100th matchup with Michigan.

And maybe, finally return the Little Brown Jug to the place where it all started more than 100 years ago.

“We wanted that pig really bad,” Thompson said, “but then again, once we beat Michigan, that’ll be a really good feeling as well.”

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