Michigan Jug October 31 1903

On today, the 110th Anniversary of the Little Brown Jug Game #0, a repost:


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, and you can get your fill here:

Chapter 1: What Really Happened in the 1930s
Chapter 2: Spinning Myths
Chapter 3: Getting it Right
Chapter 4: 2013: A Space Quandary
Chapter 5: Red Wing Roots
Chapter 6: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
Chapter 7: Open Questions
Chapter 8: Doc Cooke and the Real Origins of the Rivalry
Chapter 9: Gophers Here, Gophers There – When Michigan played Minnesota Twice
Chapter 10: How It Started: Minnesota Madmen 6, Michigan Machine 6
Chapter 11: A Righteous Sip, and Why Michigan Bought the Jug
Chapter 12: Making It Official—Jil Gordon & Painting the Little Brown Jug


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04. September 2011 · Comments Off on Ending Early · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , ,

From the official game release:

This is the first Michigan football game to end before all 60 minutes of regulation have been played.

Well kind of.  And I’ll clarify in a minute.

It’s certainly not the first Michigan football game to end before the planned allotted time.   Most notably two of the most famous games in college football history ended early:

  • The 1902 Rose Bowl (the first bowl game ever played) ended with plenty of time on the clock because Yost, Heston and crew were putting a colossal smack down on Stanford.  From the Bentley:

    With eight minutes remaining in the game, Stanford captain Ralph Fisher approached the Wolverine bench and offered to concede; Michigan consented.

  • While this game yielded the Little Brown Jug, the great 1903 Minnesota-Michigan battle between the Western powerhouses also ended early.  The common story is that after the Gophers scored a late TD to tie the game, the Minnesota fans stormed the field and the coaches agreed to call the game. (I’ve heard other claims that approaching weather was a factor in the decision, but haven’t seen much evidence to back that up).  The Sunday November 1, 1903 Minneapolis Tribune says the game ended with “but a few seconds left to play.”  The Detroit Free Press from that Sunday said two minutes remained, headline: 

Freep Nov 1 1903Detroit Free Press  November 1, 1903

As you can imagine they were a little more liberal with the clock in those days, and there were many times when the teams agreed to end the game, mostly due to the Yost beat down that was going on. 

The great John Kryk of Natural Enemies emailed me with some brilliant stuff, explaining this further:

It not only happened often during Point-A-Minute years (and before) as a result of Yost maulings, but in those days the full 70 minutes (two 35-minute halves) were ONLY played when the opponent was of sufficient strength or reputation.

For instance in 1901 Michigan played 10 regular-season games. Only two (Chicago and Iowa) had halves of 35-35. This was by mutual agreement.  Games not only could, but usually were, shortened by mutual agreement.  Sometimes it was even put into the contract a year before.   For instance, the halves were only 20 minutes long in Yost’s first game vs Albion.   Against Pop Warner’s Carlisle team they were 27.5 and 27.5 — obviously a compromise between 25 and 30.

This practice continued at least until the end of the decade. By the early 1910s, with the change to four downs, 100-yard fields and 60-minute, four-quarter games, the practice of pre-determined or ad-hoc shortening was eliminated.

I’m sure there have been other anomalies over the years.  Only one I know of, because of my research focus, is the 1943 Michigan Notre Dame game. The M stadium scoreboard clock malfunctioned, and players and coaches couldn’t believe how long the 3rd quarter was going.   It became evident that it had stopped for a long time. Crisler, Leahy and the officials agreed that they’d probably played (I think it was something like) a 23-minute third quarter, so by mutual agreement they played only a seven-minute fourth quarter.

So in that way, yesterday’s was the shortest 3rd quarter in modern times, and that 43 ND game was the longest.

That is raw historical horsepower, people.  [Get yourself some Natural Enemies if you don’t have it.]

So back to the athletic department line, it’s probably correct that this was the first game since they enacted the standard 60 minute clock to end early.  That said, you certainly can’t dismiss that this happened several times during the Yost era, including in two very famous games.

Related stuff from Saturday’s game:

  • Herron vs. Harmon – Longest Interception Return Ever?
  • Last Weather Delay (Photos from ‘06)
  • Head for The Hills
  • Brady Hoke Arrives…
  • Big House Seat Cushions

  • A hearty well done to reader Brian Snider for being the latest member of the Little Brown Jug club, and did he ever.  Snider created not only a 5 gallon version (like the actual jug), he knocked out four and three-gallon versions:


    Snider joins:

    Each member of the group has drawn on the experiences of the others.  Perhaps we need to form a Union – The Brotherhood of Primers and Jug Painters, Local 1903.

    Great work Brian!

    Update #1:  Snider is offering the 4 gallon version of the jug on eBay right now.  It’s the easy way to enter the Jug Club.   
    Update #2:  And speaking of auctions, check out a new mgoauction featuring a Jug print signed by the A-Train, Chuck Woodson and Butch Woolfolk:


    For more on the jug, get with the lore:

    Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s
    Part II: Spinning Myths
    Part III: Getting it Right
    Part IV: 2013: A Space Quandary
    Part V: Red Wing Roots
    Part VI: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
    Part VII: Open Questions
    Part VIII: Doc Cooke and the Real Origins of the Rivalry


    This blogger rejoices over the news tonight.

    So does this guy (below).  That’s Louis J. "Doc" Cooke, longtime Minnesota administrator who started Little Brown Jug rivalry by suggesting the teams play for the crock in 1909:

    cook 30s 40s

    If you’re not ready to rejoice, take in the entire Little Brown Jug lore series:

    Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s
    Part II: Spinning Myths
    Part III: Getting it Right
    Part IV: 2013: A Space Quandary
    Part V: Red Wing Roots
    Part VI: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
    Part VII: Open Questions


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