One headline in the November 1, 1903 Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Tribune declared, “VICTORY, THOUGH THE SCORE IS TIED.”  Further down toward the fold it blared, “YOST AND MICHIGAN PRACTICALLY BEATEN.”

It was that fierce battle, played Saturday October 31, 1903, that spawned the greatest of the college football rivalry trophies.  At the direction of coach Fielding Yost, Michigan’s student manager Tommy Roberts purchased a five gallon jug that was left behind in the aftermath of this epic clash that served as first, a Gopher souvenir, and later as the trophy that’s been presented to the winner since 1909.

The Tribune described Yost’s Michigan team, winners of 29 straight heading into that game, this way:

Her lineman were giants on the attack, and were adamant on defense.  Her backs were great battering rams, with the speed of the wind, guided by an intelligence in play almost superhuman.

Her team work was near perfection, and the eleven representatives of the maize and blue were like some powerful machine, continuously in motion.

That line is a nod to Yost’s revolutionary tendency to speed up the pace of play, earning him the famous tag ‘Hurry Up’.

Now, we know the game ended in a 6-6 tie when the teams exchanged touchdowns, then worth 5 points each, in the second half.  Michigan took the lead when the great Wolverine back Willie Heston found the end zone first midway through the half.  The Gophers tied the score in the final minutes of the game and added the extra point to secure the tie.  Depending on who you read, the game was either called with “a few seconds” remaining on the clock (Tribune), or two minutes left to go (Detroit Free Press).  Afterwards thousands of Gopher fans stormed the field to celebrate the game-tying tally.

Naturally the Tribune saved a few good lines for the hometown victors tie-ers:

When [All-American tackle Fred] Schacht made his two gains of four yards each, the of the maize and blue went to pieces.  They could not stand it.

Michigan was fighting against eleven madmen, and the madmen won.

Century old Chart
You’ve got to love this—the Tribune even included a diagrammed play chart from the 1903 game on the front page.  Click to supersize it, it’s pretty cool after you figure out the key:


What happened next is of course the stuff of Little Brown Jug Lore.

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  1. Dude, it is Jug week, ramp up the posts! Let’s get crack-a-lackin!

  2. So, the field used to be 110 yards long? Does that mean old stats should be re-visited?

    • Yes on the field and good question on the stats but that’s the least of your concerns on statistical consistency. Scoring was different, the game clocks weren’t standardized, passing was outlawed and oh, by the way, they really didn’t bother to keep detailed records of the stats.

  3. I have the Minnesota Vault book that talks about this game. It also has a small replica of the game chart.

    Maybe this weekend I will scan the page with a picture and email Greg.
    The picture has guys who climbed up on poles to see the action.

  4. That was a last-second touchdown to tie the game, despite what the Free Press said. Note from the game chart that Minnesota never even kicked off after their touchdown. I know the clock did not stop at the time, like in soccer or rugby today, but it would have been only a minute or so from the touchdown to the kickoff. I think we can safely say that Minnesota scored in the last minute, and certainly on the last play from scrimmage of the game.

    As far as “revisiting the stats” are concerned, there really isn’t any need since the official NCAA records (as well as the Big Ten records and the University of Michigan records) in the various record books only start in 1937 or so. Willie Heston’s rushing yards would be off the charts, I think, if we added them up today. Those records just don’t count, though.

    Which leads to a question–are there play-by-play records surviving for all of Michigan’s games from 1901 to 1905? I know that newspapers would often print play-by-plays or drive charts like the one pictured, but not for every game. It would be interesting to compile rusing statistics and print a modern box score for each of the games.

  5. That Jug is so darn cool!