Jug-less

Minnesota will try to beat Michigan for the first time since 1986 on Saturday.

Matt Perkins

Most rivalries are created out of long, hard-fought battles that aren’t decided until the very end – which often are repeated before becoming a “rivalry.”

But it took one tie game, called with two minutes left on the clock, and a left-behind water jug to make arguably the most famous football trophy rivalry in college football.

“I don’t know what to say about it because I’ve never had my hands on it,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said.

Michigan currently dominates the series for the Little Brown Jug at 63-21-3, and looks to improve upon that record at noon Saturday at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines have won 16 games in a row against Minnesota.

And it could be a long ride for Gophers fans again this season.

Last year, Minnesota blew a 24-17 fourth-quarter lead to lose 27-24 thanks to Michigan’s exploitation of the Gophers secondary.

Freshman Chad Henne threw for 328 yards, completing 33 of 49 passes for two touchdowns, including a 31-yard game-winning hookup with Tyler Ecker with less than two minutes left in the game.

The loss ignited a bitter second half of the season for the Gophers, when the team lost four of its last six games.

This time Henne will take aim at a secondary missing starting strong safety Brandon Owens, who is out indefinitely after an undisclosed injury suffered last week against Penn State.

Minnesota can’t ignore the run after giving up 364 yards rushing to Penn State. Especially since Michigan running back Mike Hart ran for 218 yards at Michigan State last week.

With those offensive numbers, Michigan appears to be the team Minnesota – which gave up 35 first downs last week at Penn State – would least like to play this week.

But Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito said playing Michigan after the tough loss to the Nittany Lions last weekend is beneficial.

“The best thing for us is probably that we are playing Michigan this week,” Cupito said. “It’s a chance to get back on track against a team we possibly should have beaten the past two years, but didn’t.”

Running back Laurence Maroney echoed Cupito’s words, and added that the Gophers also don’t have as much pressure to succeed this time around.

“I feel like there really wasn’t too much pressure on us this year,” Maroney said, “because not too many people thought we’d be doing as good as we’ve been doing. So we’re underdogs to every team.”

But the Gophers are more than just underdogs at Michigan.

Minnesota is trying to kill another losing streak before it starts, and also end Michigan’s 19-year stranglehold on the Little Brown Jug.

That’s something that has Mason straying from Cupito and Maroney’s “bring-it-on” mentality.

“You look at that whole series, it is kind of lopsided now,” Mason said. “If I had my way, I wouldn’t play them anymore.”