Gophers lose Little Brown Jug

Michigan won with a goal-line stand on the final play of Saturday’s game to defeat Minnesota 29-26.

Minnesota wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky prepares to catch a pass from quarterback Mitch Leidner in the final minute of Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Wolverines defeated the Gophers 29-26. The play landed the Gophers at the 1-yard line, where they were unable to score before the game's end.

Minnesota wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky prepares to catch a pass from quarterback Mitch Leidner in the final minute of Saturday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium, where the Wolverines defeated the Gophers 29-26. The play landed the Gophers at the 1-yard line, where they were unable to score before the game’s end.

Ryan Falk

The crowd’s chants of “Jerry” were deafening as the Gophers lined up for a game-winning touchdown on the half-yard line with two seconds remaining in Saturday’s game against the University of Michigan. 
 
Interim head coach Tracy Claeys — in charge after Jerry Kill announced his retirement Wednesday — neglected a potential game-tying field goal attempt and instead watched redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner’s sneak get stuffed at the goal line by the Wolverines.
 
The crowd fell silent and No. 15 Michigan crossed the field to reclaim the Little Brown Jug, and the team secured its 29-26 victory over Minnesota (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) on the final play.
 
“Obviously, it didn’t work, and it was my call,” Claeys said. “You get it down inside there. I think you’ve got to get the ball in the end zone.”
 
The Gophers outgained the Wolverines, who entered the game No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, 461-296, but found themselves trailing late in the fourth quarter.
 
The Gophers ran 13 plays for 74 yards on the final drive before coming up half a yard short. 
 
Leidner, who threw for a career high 317 yards, appeared to find junior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky for a 23-yard game-winning touchdown on the drive, but after review, the play was ruled a 22-yard catch down inside the one-yard line with 19 seconds remaining. 
 
“It’s tough,” sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen said. “[I thought] that [Wolitarsky] has a touchdown and I’m very excited, and then you find out that he doesn’t. That’s how football is.” 
 
The game clock started as soon as an official spotted the ball, but the Gophers ran a pass play that included shifts and motions, bringing the clock down to two seconds. 
 
Claeys said he knew the clock was running after the review, but Leidner said he was surprised to see the clock running.
 
The Gophers then decided to go for the win with a sneak from the 6-foot-4-inch, 237-pound Leidner.
 
The quarterback tried to go through the middle of the line to get into the end zone, but Michigan stopped him before he could get in.
 
“I haven’t missed a quarterback sneak since I’ve been here,” Leidner said. “It’s crazy because nobody usually stops us in that situation.”
 
The Gophers failed to keep the Little Brown Jug in back-to-back seasons, something the team hasn’t done since the 1963 season.
 
Apart from Leidner’s career high in yards, Lingen set a career high with 111 receiving yards off of five catches. 
 
And redshirt sophomore kicker Ryan Santoso also made a career high four field goals on the night.
 
The Gophers honored Kill at different points throughout the game, including Leidner running around the student section with a “Jerrysota” flag before the opening kickoff.
 
“Overall, the whole game was just emotional when you think about it,” Leidner said. “For all the work every single person on that field, on that sideline put in to play for [Kill], it’s an overwhelming feeling.”
 
Michigan scored the first touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run by redshirt senior fullback Joe Kerridge, putting the Wolverines up 7-3.
 
The Gophers fought back in the second quarter as Leidner threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Rashad Still, who made a leaping grab and a cutback on his way to the end zone to cut Michigan’s lead to 14-13.
 
Minnesota added a 32-yard field goal before halftime to lead 16-14 going into the locker room.
 
The third quarter saw both teams add a touchdown, and the Gophers led 23-21 going into the fourth quarter.
 
Michigan redshirt senior quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for 140 yards and a touchdown, also left the game in the third quarter after taking a big hit on a run.
 
Sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight replaced Rudock and threw a touchdown pass and converted a subsequent two-point attempt late in the fourth quarter to give Michigan a three-point lead. 
 
The Gophers drove to take the lead back, but their upset bid fell short.
 
“It’s just been an emotional rollercoaster all the way to the end of the game,” sophomore defensive tackle Steven Richardson said. “This week has had its ups and downs all the way through.”