Forgive the players of Minnesota’s football team if their memories are a little fuzzy when asked to recall the last time the Gophers have beaten Saturday’s opponent, Michigan.
“I am not too sure how long it’s been,” tight end Scooter Baugus said. “I know it’s been awhile.”
“I know it has been a long time, but I don’t know the exact number,” quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq said.
Added defensive end Paul Nixon: “I am not sure, like 1967?”
Well, it hasn’t quite been that long. But the last Minnesota win was in 1986, meaning none of the current Gophers players or coaches have witnessed a victory against the Wolverines, or held the Little Brown Jug, awarded to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota contest.
“We haven’t beaten them yet,” coach Glen Mason said. Mason’s record against the Wolverines is 0-3. “You would like to say that one conference win doesn’t mean anymore than the other. But, they are still Michigan and we haven’t beaten them.”
The Wolverines put their 13-game winning streak against Minnesota on the line this weekend at the Metrodome. Michigan owns a commanding 64-23-3 record in the series, winning every contest at the Metrodome since it opened in 1982.
Since 1968 the Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) have only won two games against the Wolverines.
Despite the recent failures Minnesota is not motivated by ending the streak. The Gophers instead have received the extra push by last week’s 31-point drubbing at the hands of Ohio State.
“It is kind of a must in our situation that we bounce back from the Ohio State loss and that we play well,” running back Terry Jackson II said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do I might just get my hands on that jug.”
Added Abdul-Khaliq: “You look forward to playing a team like this because you can prove you are capable of playing with a team like that.”
Minnesota was unable to muster any offensive flow against the Buckeyes top conference-ranked defense. Ohio State gives up 305.6 yards per game but the Gophers were able to only gain 112.
Minnesota’s top-ranked rushing offense (246.8 yards per game) was limited to only 53 yards.
The Gophers understand they face another tough assignment this week against Michigan, the Big Ten’s third-ranked rushing defense at 106.2 yards per game. Jackson believes the answer is simple.
“Execute, plain and simple,” Jackson said. “We need to execute. They are fast and run to the ball well. They get the same kind of players as Ohio State.
“Big time programs get big time players so you have to expect them to be tough.”
Getting his hands on the jug might be a little more special to Jackson, who grew up watching many of the Wolverine victories. But, living in Saginaw, Mich., Jackson was rooting for Michigan in those wins.
“I have a chance to play against a great team in Michigan,” Jackson said. “They were my childhood favorite. It’s kind of playing against somebody you look up to. I am going to accept that role and go in there and play as hard as I can.”
And should the Gophers take possession of the Little Brown Jug the victory will be especially sweet for Jackson.
“It would feel great,” Jackson said. “It would feel better than the Michigan State win. It would be great to get that jug.”