It's a long drive from Ann Arbor to Minneapolis. It's a long night when a bar offers 2-for-1 on all drinks from 9pm to midnight. It's a long tailgate when the game starts at 7pm. It's a long but satisfying walk from the Michigan sideline to the Minnesota sideline to open that mystery box and pull out the Little Brown Jug.
It's a tough job to motivate a group of young men to get up for games every week. Somehow, Coach Carr has convinced his teams year after year that the Little Brown Jug is important, despite the fact that this rivalry has been grossly one-sided for the better part of the past century. He spins the yarn of the legend of Yost and the water jug on Michigan Replay, at the press conference, and to the team. For some reason, they seem to buy into it. Every time we win this game, even when we've won it sixteen straight times, we pull that jug out in celebration, jumping up and down like we clinched the wild card or something (*cough*).
Saturday wasn't much different. Michael Hart and his band of zone blockers were a ball-control machine, while Henne's air attack continued to amaze everyone with its laser accuracy. It seems that anytime he feels like it, Chad can look-off the safety and fire it to Manningham (or Arrington) for a touchdown. And though it wasn't all roses in one of our last trips to the Metrodome (new Gopher stadium in '09...yes!!!) it was never really in doubt. Michigan came out fast in this one, getting a 14-0 lead by way of two Henne-to-Arrington touchdowns, and would lead 21-7 at the half, which seemed like the fastest half of football ever. It was a scoreless second half until Henne-to-Hart was followed by a Hart 1-yard dive to make it 28-7. A Gopher touchdown with just under 5 minutes to play was followed by an on-side kick that was recovered by Minnesota. Embarrassingly, the only people there to see it were the remaining Michigan fans. I haven't seen a place clear out like that since Penn State '97. The Gophers took it all the way to the Michigan 8, but Cupito's last ditch effort fell incomplete. In the ultimate reverse flashback moment to last year, Michigan was just trying to run out the clock when Mike Hart busted a 53-yard run a la the ineligible Gary Russell in 2005. I thought we should kick the field goal just to be funny (and because Garret seems to be having problems) but instead we let Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown work out their legs as time expired. Michigan wins 28-14.
Our arrival on Friday allowed for a full campus bar tour. We hit Stub and Herbs, Big Ten, and Sally's...and we were flabbergasted at the lack of people out on the eve of the big game. Every excuse in the book was given to us by the locals, from "tomorrow's a big day" to "there's probably more people in Dinkytown." But we had a good time with the few locals we did meet, and enjoyed the drink specials. It cost about $50 to incapacitate the three of us, with new tailgater Baby Gorilla feeling the effects well into Saturday.
On Saturday, we started with a trip to the famous "Al's Breakfast" where I consumed the best damn corned-beef hash ever made. The tailgate occurred in one of the seedier parts of Minneapolis about half a mile from the Metrodome, under a highway billboard, with very few people around. But we stood tall for 7 hours with Jambalaya, BBQ beef poor boys, and locally made subs.
A successful but arduous trip across the country...leaving just one more game of revenge. But we must not look ahead, because Sparty is coming to town this Saturday, and even though they are an embarassment to themselves, their fans, and their mothers, they can fix everything in one shot. Get ready folks...the longest home tailgate in Michigan history is on the horizon. The theme is Urban, so pull out the soul food recipes and get your livers ready.