Gophers to battle for Little Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug is one of the oldest trophies in college football.

Grant Donald

In 2005, Minnesota traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., and upset the No. 21 Michigan Wolverines, hoisting the Little Brown Jug in front of more than 111,000 fans sporting maize and blue.

That was the last time the oldest trophy in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision has made the trip to stay in Minneapolis.

“We haven’t had the jug in a couple of years. I don’t even know what it looks like,” senior running back David Cobb said.

Minnesota has won the jug only once in the past 23 meetings between the two schools and has a 22-69-3 all-time record.

But the lack of success the Gophers have experienced when playing Michigan doesn’t mean the team won’t be fired up for this weekend’s matchup.

“This is a trophy that we haven’t seen a lot of here in the community, and no [player] here has seen the Little Brown Jug,” redshirt junior defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun said. “It means a lot to us, just as much as it does to the community, if not more.”

The competition for the jug reportedly started back in 1903 when Michigan traveled to Minnesota having won 28 consecutive games. The Gophers ended up tying the Wolverines 6-6. The next day, a custodian by the name of Oscar Munson came across Michigan’s water jug and brought it to the head of the Gophers’ athletics department.

Minnesota kept the jug as some sort of prize, painting the score and “Michigan Jug – Captured by Oscar, October 31, 1903,” on the sides.

Michigan wanted the jug back, but L.J. Cooke, the head of the athletics department at the time, refused and allegedly said, “If you want it, you’ll have to win it.”

 Although the story behind the Little Brown Jug may seem comical, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said he is excited to continue the “tremendous tradition.”

“You’re going to the Big House. It’s the first Big Ten game. You’re playing for the Little Brown Jug. I mean, that’s what college football is about,” Kill said.

For seniors, like defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli, Saturday not only marks their last chance at the Little Brown Jug, but it is also their last chance to play at Michigan Stadium.

“It’s a joy. There is no better feeling than hearing 100,000 sigh and moan and groan,” Botticelli said. “It’s exhilarating — one of the biggest memories of my college experience.”

While playing in the largest stadium in all of college football may be a great experience, it does warrant some extra preparation before the trip.

“You have to do things different when you’re on the road, [like] cadence, just little things you got to do different,” Kill said. “Playing in places like [the Big House] will make you do that.”

Kill said not everyone on the team truly understands the significance of playing for the jug and going to the Big House.

But he said he will make sure to educate them.

“Those young freshmen, all the ones we’re playing, certainly when you recruit them you talk about [the jug], but still they really don’t understand completely because they’re young,” Kill said. “[When] they walk out on the field, then those freshmen will go, ‘OK, this is a big deal here.’”