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This Wolverines Gameday in History Goes Trick 'r Treating in Minneapolis

Saturday marks the 112th anniversary - to the day! - of the 1903 Michigan-Minnesota game, which created the lore surrounding this historic battle over the Little Brown Jug. It will also be the Wolverines fourth meeting with the Golden Gophers on Halloween night.

From the 1910 "Michiganesian"
From the 1910 "Michiganesian"

Coming into Saturday, question marks for both squads surround the (generally) annual contest between Michigan and Minnesota. How will the Gophers perform following the sudden departure of beloved coach Jerry Kill? How will Michigan respond to arguably the most soul-crushing loss in program history? These storylines carry importance for the near-future, and therefore, they have slightly overshadowed the historic significance of Saturday's game. When toe meets leather tomorrow evening, the 112th anniversary of the Little Brown Jug will begin as both teams aim to gain a critical notch in their respective 2015 belts. The game also marks the fourth time both teams have squared off on All Hallows' Eve, with all meetings taking place in Minnesota. For me, the Little Brown Jug sits at the apex of Michigan football lore (along with The Game) due to the rich and wacky history surrounding the battles over a 30-cent water jug from the early 1900s. No rivalry trophy comes close to the LBJ, although I'm pulling for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy to continue to grow in popularity.

If you've lived under a rock since becoming a Michigan fan, head over to MVictors for more history about the Little Brown Jug than I could ever provide, which includes many awesome old photos and newspaper clippings (seriously, go and read, it's great stuff). But if reading isn't your style, first, ignore the previous link, second, click this link and listen to the entire history of the LBJ in under four minutes (also courtesy of MVictors), and third, stop reading this! Anyways, instead of the normal format of TWGIH, we're going to take a look at the previous three Michigan-Minnesota games that took place on Halloween, starting with that first meeting in 1903:

6-6 in 1903

Notes and information mostly from MVictors here and here as well as the New York Times, Detroit Free Press, and Michigan Alumnus

Michigan: winners of 29 straight games dating back to the start of the 1901 season when Fielding Yost took over the program, outscoring opponents 1631 to 12 during this streak, and back-to-back National Champions in 1901 and 1902

Minnesota: in the middle of their best start in football history at 10-0 and outscoring opponents 506-6 coming into the Michigan game

Those were the resumes of both teams heading into the 1903 game. Needless to say, this was considered a massive showdown between two powerhouses and one of the biggest games in early football history. For the game, here's an archaic chart summary:

That won't make much sense on first observation, so I'll turn to the Alumnus to add some perspective on the grinding, 6-6 tie:

The final score, Michigan 6, Minnesota 6, is a sufficient index of the character of a game which, as an exhibition of force, attack, and valiant defense on the part of both contestants, must become memorable in the football annals of the West. Not for three seasons has the Varsity been so close to defeat. While the result of the game was in the nature of a disappointment to those who had deemed a Michigan victory assured after the news of the first touchdown had reached Ann Arbor, sober second thought, fortified by a study of the details of the game, should induce in Michigan supporters if not a triumphant, at all events a contented frame of mind. A team in which six positions are filled by men who have never been put to the test in a college game of prime importance, and which thus early in its training season, under the hardships imposed by a long journey and strange grounds, plays to a tie a veteran team, favored by a longer period of preparation and familiar environs, is as worthy a representative of Michigan athletics, and as creditable to coaches and trainer, as the victorious eleven which last Thanksgiving so evidently outclassed the Minnesota men.

From the above, you can gather that the game was considered a victory for Minnesota, as the Wolverines had been untouchable under Yost to this point. All of the scoring occurred in the second half, and there's some debate over whether or not the game ended early with minutes or seconds left on the clock. However, the tie didn't hurt the Wolverines in 1903. They won out, outscoring their four opponents 122-0, and grabbed their third consecutive National Championship title.

As for how the Little Brown Jug came to be from this game, here's the common story: Yost ordered student manager Thomas B. Roberts to purchase something to transport water from Michigan to the game as Yost believed the Gophers may attempt to contaminate the Wolverines water. So Roberts did, but the jug was left behind after the game. Minnesota custodian Oscar Munson found the jug and brought it to L.J. Cooke, the head of Minnesota athletics. From there, they painted it brown - it was originally white - and Cooke proposed to Yost that they play for the jug when the two teams met again in 1909. Yost agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

34-13 in 1981

Game highlights here, courtesy of WolverineHistorian, and game notes from the New York Times

Michigan never trailed in this one as quarterback Steve Smith and wideout Anthony Carter led the Wolverines to a comfortable victory. On this slightly windy day (see above), kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh opened the scoring with a 31-yarder to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead. Later in the first, Smith found back Stanley Edwards for a 10-yard score to put Michigan up 10-0:

The Gophers responded by scoring first in the second to narrow Michigan's lead to 10-7, but the Wolverines put their foot on the gas from that point forward. Following an interception, Michigan's offense marched down the field to the endzone, capped by another pass from Smith to Edwards:

Haji-Sheikh added another three points - the only scoring in the third quarter - before Smith put the game away with a beautiful 25-yard touchdown throw to Anthony Carter:

With a score of 27-7 in favor of Michigan, both teams traded late touchdowns to pump the score up to its final mark. Smith finished the game with 237 yards and three touchdowns on 13 of 20 passing as well as 59 yards rushing on 10 carries, and Carter hauled in eight passed for 154 yards and one touchdown.

15-10 in 1998

Game highlights here, courtesy of WolverineHistorian

Ghostface! So '90s.

This game started with a Michigan-goal line stand, leading to an early 3-0 Minnesota advantage. The great Tom Brady responded on the first play of the ensuing drive with this gem to Tai Streets:

Then bad punt things happened later in the first, and the Golden Gophers ended up with the ball in Michigan's endzone. Early in the second quarter, the Wolverines faced a 3rd and 23 at their own 5-yard line, but luckily, Brady and Streets continued to be good at football:

The drive stalled inside Minnesota's five-yard line, and Jay Feely booted an 18-yard field goal to even the game at 10 apiece. At this point, the scoring stopped for both teams until early in the fourth quarter. Backed up to their own four-yard line, the Golden Gophers faced a 2nd and 16 when Michigan defensive end James Hall found Minnesota quarterback Billy Cockerham in the endzone:

Those two points proved to be the difference in this one. Feely added another field goal, this time from 42 yards, to make the score 15-10, and the Wolverines defense shut the door to win the Little Brown Jug:

Overall Record on All Hallows' Eve


Game Scores

1881 at Harvard, 0-4

1891 vs. Butler, 42-6

1896 vs. Lehigh, 40-0

1903 at Minnesota, 6-6

1908 vs. Vanderbilt, 24-6

1914 at Harvard, 0-7

1925 vs. Navy, 54-0

1931 at Princeton, 21-0

1936 vs. Illinois, 6-9

1942 vs. Illinois, 28-14

1953 vs. Penn, 24-14

1959 vs. Wisconsin, 10-19

1964 vs. Northwestern, 35-0

1970 at Wisconsin, 29-15

1981 at Minnesota, 34-13

1987 vs. Northwestern, 29-6

1992 at Purdue, 24-17

1998 at Minnesota, 15-10

2009 at Illinois, 13-38