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Michigan-Minnesota: The Little Brown Jug Series
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NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams annually compete in more than 75 regular-season trophy games, and each of those games owes its beginning to the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, some misgivings about water and a 30-cent jug. Dating back to 1909, the battle for the Little Brown Jug is the oldest trophy game in FBS college football.

While the jug rivalry started in 1909, the story began six years earlier when the teams battled in Minneapolis. Heading into that 1903 contest, Michigan was undefeated in 29 straight games, while the Golden Gophers came into the game with a 10-0 record. Having doubts that Minnesota would provide clean water for its opponent, head coach Fielding Yost ordered a manager, Tommy Roberts, to purchase a receptacle for drinking water that would be free from suspicion. Roberts thus purchased a five-gallon jug from a variety store in Minneapolis.

With two minutes remaining in the game, Minnesota rallied to tie the game 6-6 on a touchdown. When they blasted over the goal line, the fans rushed the field in excitement. The ensuing pandemonium led to the game being called with time still remaining on the clock.

In their haste to leave and catch the train back to Chicago, Michigan left the jug behind. Minnesota equipment manager Oscar Munson found it the following morning and brought it to Director of Athletics L.J. Cooke. In remembrance of the game, they decided to give it a paint job, scribing, "Michigan Jug - Captured by Oscar, October 31, 1903," on one side. On the opposite face they spelled out the score, "Minnesota 6, Michigan 6," making the Minnesota "6" three times larger than the Michigan score. For the next several years, Cooke suspended the jug from the ceiling of his office in the Minnesota Armory until Yost and the Wolverines visited Minneapolis again in 1909.

Stories vary on when and why the teams decided to play for the jug. The common version claims that when Yost realized he left the crock behind, he sent a letter requesting the jug be returned to Ann Arbor. Cooke allegedly wrote back, "If you want it, you'll have to come up and win it." 

Other evidence points to the rivalry being crafted just prior to the 1909 game when Cooke and Yost met in the Minnesota athletic director's office. According to Cooke's memoirs, he showed Yost the old water jug and suggested that playing for the crock "might be material to build up a fine tradition," and Yost agreed. Michigan won the 1909 game, 15-6, and returned to Ann Arbor with the new trophy. The Wolverines defended the jug in Ann Arbor in 1910. In large part thanks to Michigan's withdrawal from the Western Conference, the jug was not contested again until 1919.

In September 1931, the Little Brown Jug disappeared from the Michigan Athletic Administration Building trophy case. In November, it seemed as though the trophy was returned when a mysterious car with four men wearing dark goggles dropped off a look-a-like jug at an Ann Arbor gas station. Skeptics were abound and the local press deemed it "a clever imitation," but Yost argued that it was the original. Michigan defeated the Gophers that week and again in 1932. Then in August 1933, a different jug appeared "in a clump of bushes near the medical building" on Michigan's campus. Yost confirmed this was the real trophy and it has been in service ever since.

In 1934, Minnesota finally defeated the Wolverines and the jug was returned to Oscar Munson, the man who found the jug in 1903. Munson promptly hid the jug away in a secret location. Since then, the Little Brown Jug has been carefully guarded by the football equipment manager at each school. The Michigan guardian of the trophy is Jon Falk.

The Little Brown Jug has been tucked away in Schembechler Hall since Michigan claimed a 28-14 victory in Minneapolis in 2006. Wolverines have won 54 of the last 65 games in the series, including 38 of the last 41 and 22 of the last 23. After not playing in 2009 and 2010, U-M blanked the Gophers, 58-0, on Oct. 1, 2011, at Michigan Stadium, the first Wolverine shutout win in the series since 1976, and followed that up with a 35-13 win on Nov. 3, 2012, in the teams' first meeting at TCF Bank Stadium. On Oct. 5, 2013, U-M continued its winning ways with a 42-13 homecoming victory at the Big House.

Michigan's results in the Little Brown Jug series (through 2013):

Date W/L Score Site Rank
Oct. 31, 1903 T 6-6 A
Nov. 20, 1909 W 15-6 A
Nov. 19, 1910 W 6-0 H
Nov. 22, 1919 L 7-34 H
Nov. 20, 1920 W 3-0 A
Nov. 19, 1921 W 38-0 H
Nov. 25, 1922 W 16-7 A
Nov. 24, 1923 W 10-0 H
Nov. 1, 1924 W 13-0 A
Nov. 21, 1925 W 35-0 H
Oct. 16, 1926 W 20-0 H
Nov. 20, 1926 W 7-6 A
Nov. 19, 1927 L 7-13 H
Nov. 16, 1929 W 7-6 A
Nov. 15, 1930 W 7-0 H
Nov. 21, 1931 W 6-0 H
Nov. 19, 1932 W 3-0 A
Nov. 18, 1933 T 0-0 H
Nov. 3, 1934 L 0-34 A
Nov. 16, 1935 L 0-40 H
Oct. 17, 1936 L 0-26 A
Oct. 16, 1937 L 6-39 H
Oct. 15, 1938 L 6-7 A
Nov. 11, 1939 L 7-20 H 10/-
Nov. 9, 1940 L 6-7 A 3/2
Oct. 25, 1941 L 0-7 H 3/-
Oct. 24, 1942 L 14-16 A 4/13
Oct. 23, 1943 W 49-6 H 10/11
Oct. 7, 1944 W 28-13 A
Nov. 3, 1945 W 26-0 H 10/16
Nov. 2, 1946 W 21-0 A 13/-
Oct. 25, 1947 W 13-6 H 1/-
Oct. 23, 1948 W 27-14 A 1/13
Oct. 22, 1949 W 14-7 H 12/3
Oct. 28, 1950 T 7-7 A 14/-
Oct. 27, 1951 W 54-27 H
Oct. 25, 1952 W 21-0 H 19/-
Oct. 24, 1953 L 0-22 A 5/-
Oct. 23, 1954 W 34-0 H -/8
Oct. 22, 1955 W 14-13 A 1/-
Oct. 27, 1956 L 7-20 H 5/-
Oct. 26, 1957 W 24-7 A 20/14
Oct. 25, 1958 W 20-19 H
Oct. 24, 1959 W 14-6 A -/6
Oct. 22, 1960 L 0-10 H
Oct. 28, 1961 L 20-23 A
Oct. 27, 1962 L 0-17 H
Oct. 26, 1963 L 0-6 A
Oct. 24, 1964 W 19-12 H
Oct. 23, 1965 L 13-14 A
Oct. 22, 1966 W 49-0 H
Oct. 28, 1967 L 15-20 A
Oct. 26, 1968 W 33-20 H 12/-
Oct. 25, 1969 W 35-9 A
Oct. 24, 1970 W 39-13 H 5/-
Oct. 23, 1971 W 35-7 A 3/-
Oct. 28, 1972 W 42-0 H 5/-
Oct. 27, 1973 W 34-7 A 4/-
Oct. 26, 1974 W 49-0 H 3/-
Nov. 1, 1975 W 28-21 A 7/-
Oct. 30, 1976 W 45-0 H 1/-
Oct. 22, 1977 L 0-16 A 1/-
Oct. 28, 1978 W 42-10 H 8/-
Oct. 13, 1979 W 31-21 H 11/-
Oct. 18, 1980 W 37-14 A
Oct. 31, 1981 W 34-13 A 15/-
Oct. 30, 1982 W 52-14 H 20/-
Nov. 12, 1983 W 58-10 A 9/-
Nov. 10, 1984 W 31-7 H
Nov. 16, 1985 W 48-7 A 8/-
Nov. 15, 1986 L 17-20 H 2/-
Nov. 7, 1987 W 30-20 A
Nov. 5, 1988 W 22-7 H 14/-
Nov. 18, 1989 W 49-15 A 3/-
Nov. 17, 1990 W 35-18 H 16/-
Oct. 25, 1991 W 52-6 A 4/-
Oct. 24, 1992 W 63-13 H 3/-
Nov. 13, 1993 W 58-7 A
Nov. 12, 1994 W 38-22 H 19/-
Oct. 28, 1995 W 52-17 H 9/-
Oct. 26, 1996 W 44-10 A 10/-
Nov. 1, 1997 W 24-3 H 4/-
Oct. 31, 1998 W 15-10 A 22/-
Nov. 10, 2001 W 31-10 H 12/-
Nov. 9, 2002 W 41-24 A 13/-
Oct. 10, 2003 W 38-35 A 20/17
Oct. 9, 2004 W 27-24 H 14/13
Oct. 8, 2005 L 20-23 H 21/-
Sept. 30, 2006 W 28-14 A 6/-
Oct. 27, 2007 W 34-10 H 19/-
Nov. 8, 2008 W 29-6 A -/-
Oct. 1, 2011 W 58-0 H 19/-
Nov. 3, 2012 W 35-3 A -/-
Oct. 5, 2013 W 42-13 H 19/-

1 - Detroit, Mich.
Rankings (Michigan/Minnesota) from Associated Press poll


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