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While the jug rivalry started in , the story began six years earlier when the teams battled in Minneapolis. Heading into that contest, Michigan was undefeated in 29 straight games, while the Golden Gophers came into the game with a 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 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.
In remembrance of the game, they decided to give it a paint job, scribing, "Michigan Jug - Captured by Oscar, October 31, ," 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 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. 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 game, , and returned to Ann Arbor with the new trophy.
The Wolverines defended the jug in Ann Arbor in In large part thanks to Michigan's withdrawal from the Western Conference, the jug was not contested again until 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 Then in August , 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 , Minnesota finally defeated the Wolverines and the jug was returned to Oscar Munson, the man who found the jug in 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 Brad Berlin.
The Little Brown Jug was tucked away in Schembechler Hall since Michigan claimed a victory in Minneapolis in , before Minnesota claimed victory in ; however, U-M regained the jug with a thrilling road win on Halloween in -- Michigan's 20th win at Minnesota in the last 21 tries.
After not playing in and , U-M blanked the Gophers, , on Oct. On Oct. Michigan's results in the Little Brown Jug series through : Date.