Michigan vs Minnesota Football — Looking Back – 2005

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Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins Highlighting Key Rivalry Games

The fourth installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Minnesota takes us to 2005. In the first decade of the 21st century, Michigan had some teams that were loaded, but they didn’t always accomplish what they should, for a variety of reasons. The 2005 game against Minnesota was a perfect example of that.

In each of the previous two seasons, Michigan and Minnesota had played close games, but Michigan had won both of those contests, reenforcing the Wolverines’ confidence. If anything, those wins might have made Michigan a little complacent. Late in the game, Michigan had forced Minnesota into a 3rd down and 10 yards to go from the Minnesota 25-yard line, and it’s easy to imagine that most people in the stadium were already thinking about what plays Michigan should run when the Wolverines got the ball back.

Unfortunately for all Michigan, it was only third down, and Minnesota didn’t panic. Rather than throwing the ball, Minnesota ran the ball, sending running back Gary Russell around right end, where nobody got in front of him. Several defenders reached and grabbed, finally giving chase and bringing Russell down deep in Michigan territory. By then, the damage was done, and Minnesota kicker Jason Giannini knocked a chip shot field goal through, giving Minnesota a 23-20 lead.

Stunned, Michigan had one last chance on the kickoff, and the Wolverines tried to run a version of the legendary Cal return against Stanford in 1982. But the band wasn’t on the field this time, and the play ended meekly, with a member of the Michigan kickoff return team getting drilled into the ground, as the Golden Gopher captains raced across the field to grab the Little Brown Jug. Other than the Minnesota players and coaches, most in the crowd remained silent, absorbing the shock of the loss.

In retrospect, a loss like that had been a long time coming for Michigan, though not necessarily against Minnesota. Michigan had edged numerous opponents in close victories, camouflaging the fact that the Wolverines often had not played as well as they should. This time, the result went the wrong way, resulting in a hard lesson, but one that was important, nonetheless.

The next season, Michigan came back with a vengeance, but in October 2005, that was difficult to imagine, as fans watched Minnesota players disappear up the ramp and into the tunnel, taking the Little Brown Jug with them.

Thanks to YouTube poster ProjectPangea for the video. As always, this blog post is written strictly for the entertainment of fans, and I do not profit from it any way.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.