Michigan hosts Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. in a rare Saturday night game at The Big House. And the lights will certainly be shining on which direction this football team is heading.
But before we get to that … some history.
Many know about the Little Brown Jug but less know how the “trophy” for the Michigan-Minnesota rivalry came to be in the first place.
The Jug, unbeknownst to either team, was first played for on Oct. 31, 1903 as Michigan mistakenly left it in Minneapolis after the two teams tied 6-6. Minnesota’s custodian Oscar Munson found the jug the next day and took it to L.J. Cooke, who was in charge of the athletic department.
Michigan wrote Cooke a letter asking for the jug back, to which Cooke replied, “If you want it back, you’ll have to win it back.” And with that, the tradition of The Little Brown Jug was born.
Michigan is trying to return to another tradition of past years – being a national football powerhouse. They aren’t there yet and how far they still have to go will be determined this month starting Saturday night under the lights.
And to do that the Wolverines are turning to – we think – Brandon Peters at quarterback after another rather listless performance from senior John O’Korn against Rutgers.
With 7:01 left in the second quarter on Saturday at the Big House, Harbaugh turned to Peters to take over the offense and the sophomore (red-shirted last year) from Avon, Ind., engineered an efficient 10-play scoring drive that ended in the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
Peters then ran the 2-minute drill down the field and tossed a 20-yard TD pass to Chris Evans to give the home team a 21-7 lead at halftime. Peters then led UM to another TD early in the third quarter for a 28-7 lead.
Three possessions with Peters at QB – three touchdowns with Peters at QB. Still, Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t commit to Peters as the starter Saturday night against the Golden Gophers.
On Monday, the elusive and oftentimes predictable Harbaugh summed it up like only he can: “We’re going in the way we have: preparing both quarterbacks. Not naming a starter (Monday). We’ll see how the week progresses. Our system is a meritocracy where the best players play. It was time for Brandon to play. Went in, acquitted himself very well, and he will play again. He will play again this week.”
Harbaugh added that Peters needs to “build on the successes he had in the ball game.”
And there, of course, is room for improvement.
“Well, he can do a lot to build on it,” Harbaugh said. “Getting your first action and the things that you did well and how that felt when it happened, and then things that could have done better. Now he’s been in game action, so I think that helps a lot.”
Peters was helped by a potent ground attack against the Scarlet Knights. Michigan had a season-high 471 yards of offense against Rutgers led by running backs Karan Higdon (161 yards rushing) and Ty Isaac (109 yards rushing).
The Michigan defense also was back on point, holding Rutgers to 195 yards of total offense and totaling 11 tackles for loss (including five sacks).
The Wolverines will be facing a defense that has shown major improvement over the last few games. The Gophers (4-4 overall, 1-4 Big Ten) gave up 92 points in their first three conference games – all losses – before allowing just 17 in each of their last two contests.
Minnesota defeated Illinois 24-17 on Oct. 21 for its first Big Ten win of the season before losing last week at Iowa 17-10.
Peters will more than likely be the starter when the lights go on Saturday night. But he will do a lot of handing off to Higdon and Isaac which hopefully opens up opportunities to throw the ball. Peters should be able to lead them down the field and that’s the direction Michigan football needs to go in order to keep The Little Brown Jug and, more importantly, regain a tradition Harbaugh has been trying to restore since he returned home.