Little Brown Jug, Part One – “Yost Left His Yug”

When the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers began their rivalry back in 1903, both teams were undefeated and football fever was sending the mercury through the top of the thermometer. Michigan’s Fielding Yost was so worried that the home team was going to contaminate the drinking water that he bought a 5-gallon jug from a local store for protection. It cost him but 30 cents, and little did he know that he’d just begun one of the most storied rivalries in college football.

That first game ended in a 6-6 tie, but it wasn’t even allowed to finish, in a scene that would have made traveling British soccer fans raise their mugs in thumbs-up approval. With two minutes remaining on the clock, a combination of an imminent thunderstorm and a surge of riotous Gopher fans sent the Wolverines beating a hasty retreat, and broke up the game for good. As Michigan had been heavily favored, it was a decisive moral victory for the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

At the end of the game, the Minnesota locker room custodian discovered that Yost had left his jug behind in the pandemonium. Handing it over to L. J. Cooke, the head of the athletic department, the custodian Oscar Munson declared in his thick Swedish accent, “Yost Left His Yug”. For whatever unknown reason Yost wrote to get it back, and then Clarke, seizing the moment, replied “We have your little brown jug; if you want it, you’ll have to win it.” And thus began the longest running trophy game in gridiron history, though it wasn’t until the year after World War I ended that it really picked up steam.

As the 1920s set in, the Golden Gophers were plodding along in mediocrity, while the Wolverines were consistently among the top teams in the country. But when they met in Ann Arbor in 1923, both teams were once again unbeaten and raring for the fiercest battle. As the smoke cleared, the Mitten State eleven had eked out a hard-fought 10 to 0 triumph, but mighty teams of husky Minnesota kindergarteners were already plotting out play diagrams in their parents’ wheatfields, and dreaming of distant revenge. They knew their day was going to come. But that’s for another day.

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