Michigan Takes Back Little Brown Jug with 28-14 Win over Minnesota
Saturday, September 30, 2006

The last three games between Minnesota and Michigan were each decided by three points, including the 2005 game, which the Gophers won to take the Little Brown Jug for the first time since 1986.

However, a 28-14 Michigan win over the Gophers on Saturday night may have signaled the return not just of the jug to the Wolverines but an end to a brief era of competitiveness between the teams.

Michigan used the run and the pass to open up a 14-point halftime lead. A conservative second half and the failure of the Wolverines to put the game away gave some Gophers rooters, those among the 50,000 who remained late in the fourth quarter, a brief hope of a comeback.

“They’re big, they’re fast, and they’re well-coached,” said Minnesota coach Glen Mason of the Wolverines after the game. “You play the run and they go to the pass.”

It was a multi-faceted offense that gave Michigan a 14-0 lead. Mike Hart got most of the carries on the first drive, rushing for first downs on the first two plays, but Michigan also used the pass effectively. Chad Henne hit Steve Breaston for a 17-yard gain to the Minnesota 16. Hart gained three on the next play but was then stuffed for a three-yard loss by Trumaine Banks. On third-and-10, Henne found Adrian Arrington alone in the end zone for a touchdown.

After forcing the Gophers to punt for the second time, Michigan began a drive from its own 23 late in the first quarter. With receptions by Breaston, Mario Manningham, and Mike Massey, the Wolverines moved into Gophers territory but faced a fourth-and-1. Hart ran for a first down and more, gaining nine yards to the Minnesota 37. Henne then went to Arrington again, this time for a 37-yard touchdown reception. With the conversion, Michigan was up 14-0.

On the next drive, Minnesota converted on a fourth-down play of its own, Amir Pinnix gaining 10 yards to Michigan’s 27. Pinnix then took a second-down pass for six yards, leaving the Gophers with a third-and-four at the 21. Logan Payne made a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch on the left side of the end zone but was ruled out of bounds. However, the play was reviewed by the officials and the call overturned, giving the Gophers a touchdown to pull them within seven points.

Michigan came back with another touchdown as Henne hit his big-play receiver, Manningham, who beat Gophers cornerback Jamal Harris for a 41-yard score. The score stayed 21-7 for the Wolverines as the second quarter ended.

The Gophers had the first possession in the second half and moved downfield. Bryan Cupito hit Ernie Wheelwright with a 38-yard pass into the end zone, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty against Ryan Ruckdashel.

With a 14-point lead, Michigan stuck mostly to a ground game, running time off the clock but also missing changes to extend its lead. Henne did connect with Manningham for 36 yards on a third-and-18 play late in the third quarter to give the Wolverines a first down at the Minnesota 3. However, Hart lost yardage on a pair of carries that flanked an incomplete pass. Garrett Rivas, who had made eight-of-nine field-goal attempts this season, then was wide to the left with a 22-yard try.

The Wolverines finally broke through for another score with five-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter to increase their lead to 28-7. Moving quickly, the Gophers put together an 84-yard drive. The big plays were receptions by Mike Chambers and Payne for 23 and 25 yards, respectively. Eric Decker then got tangled with Michigan cornerback on a pass to the right corner and got the interference call, which gave the Gophers a first down at Michigan’s 21. On the next play, Payne took a pass from Cupito and turned the corner to take the ball into the end zone along the right sideline.

The Gophers were still down by 14, but they made it interesting after covering an on-side kick and then moving to the Michigan 7. However, four incomplete passes turned the ball back to Michigan, which ran out the clock on a drive that included a spectacular 54-yard run by Hart, which gave the junior tailback 201 yards on the ground for the day.

Henne completed 17 of 24 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns while Manningham had five of those catches for 131 yards.

Although Michigan had allowed an average of only 18.5 rushing yards per game, the Gophers again showed their ability to move the ball on the ground. Pinnix finished with 98 yards on 20 carries. Of the 215 yards the Gophers had passing, Logan Payne accounted for nearly half that with six catches for 104 yards.

While unhappy with the loss, Mason characterized the effort as “one of the better ball games we’ve played in a while,” adding that the Gophers got better as the game went on. He said they made some adjustments although, when questioned, wasn’t able to get specific. “We didn’t make any wholesale adjustments—certain they’re doing off offensive formations. You adjust some things.”

With emotion in his voice, Mason said, “We knew we’d have to slug and bite and fight for every yard, and that’s what we did.” He said he was pleased by “how hard our guys played” and that it was “fun to watch them,” particularly at the end as the Gophers scored and got the ball back on the on-sides kick.

However, it was another loss for Minnesota, dropping their record in the Big Ten to 0-2. Michigan is now 2-0 in the conference and 5-0 overall.

When the final seconds ticked off, the Michigan players walked across the field and calmly took possession of the jug. Although having the Little Brown Jug may be old hat to Michigan, its players tried to acknowledge the significance of it in post-game interviews. “You don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone,” said Mike Hart.

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