U eager to end one-sided rivalry with Michigan

John R. Carter

Webster’s New World Dictionary calls the animal version of a Wolverine a ferocious carnivore. At the same time, it lists the human equivalent as an inhabitant of Michigan.

Thanks to Michigan State’s 26-24 upset over Michigan last weekend, Minnesota’s football team is sure to run into human Wolverines with animal instincts this Saturday in Ann Arbor.

As if playing in front of 100,000-plus fans against the 12th-ranked team in the nation wasn’t tough enough, the Gophers (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) must deal with a team ticked off after the Spartans stole its Rose Bowl and national championship hopes.

“I’m expecting the top-notch Michigan,” senior safety Jack Brewer said. “We’ve got to get ready for that.”

Receiver Ron Johnson added, “Hopefully they’ll see us as a lesser opponent and they won’t come out as hard. But if they do, we’ll still be ready. They’re coming off a loss, so they’ll want to redeem themselves.”

While some teams might take the tough loss as a reason to pack in the season, Michigan (6-2, 4-1) wants to regroup in hopes of earning a berth to a secondary BCS Bowl game.

“There were things in our control that we didn’t execute and that’s why it ended the way it did,” Wolverines center Kurt Anderson said of the Spartans game. “Honestly, it’s time to move on. We looked at the mistakes we made and now it’s Minnesota this week and our focus is on the Little Brown Jug.”

The Little Brown Jug is the trophy the two schools compete for every time they play. Minnesota and Michigan last played in 1998, ending in a 15-10 Wolverine victory at the Metrodome.

Losses over the past 12 meetings have left Minnesota without possession of the Little Brown Jug since 1986.

“I’ve never seen the damn thing,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “I don’t know what it looks like.”

Johnson heads home

A week after completing the sweep of Minnesota’s three biggest career receiving records, Gophers wideout Ron Johnson is heading home to Michigan for his first game in the Big House.

The Detroit native looks forward to playing a team he watched growing up. Johnson was heavily recruited by Michigan, but showed little interest in playing there.

“Up until high school (I wanted to play there),” Johnson said. “After a while I got to meet the coaches and learned how it works around there. My main focus was going to the best place for me.”

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has told Johnson that he made his college choice too soon. But with the NFL on the horizon for Johnson, it’s hard to agree with Carr.

Sims sees field

Highly-touted defensive back Dominique Sims played the best game of his short college career last Saturday, recording a career-high seven tackles against Ohio State.

Sims was inserted at free safety when strong safety Eli Ward went down with a knee injury against the Buckeyes. Brewer moved to strong safety, leaving Sims to fill the void.

“He played well (against Ohio State),” Mason said. “He is a young guy. It’s his second year here, first year playing. He’ll be fine.”

Sims, from DeLaSalle High School, was Minnesota’s AP player of the year in 1999.

Lack of sacks

With six new defenders in Minnesota’s front seven, the Gophers sack production has steadily declined from last season.

A year ago Minnesota was fourth in the Big Ten with 31 sacks. This year, the Gophers have just 11 quarterback takedowns through eight games.

“We don’t have many sacks,” Mason said. “We’ve missed a lot of sacks. I’ve thought we’d have more. We’ve done well in that area in previous years; this year leaves a lot to be desired.”By contrast, Michigan tallied a school record of 12 sacks against Michigan State.