Since the late-1960s, the annual rivalry between Michigan and Minnesota has been dominated by the Wolverines.
Michigan leads the all-time series in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, 76-25-3. Since 1968, Michigan is 42-4 against the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota’s most significant and perhaps most impressive win since came on this day 45 years ago. Playing in Minneapolis, the Golden Gophers blanked No. 1 Michigan, 16-0.
Setting the Stage
At 4-2, Minnesota had already defeated one ranked opponent as it arrived at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 22, 1977. The Golden Gophers had lost nine straight meetings to Michigan. That included three shutouts and a 45-0 drubbing the year prior in Ann Arbor.
At 6-0 and ranked No. 1, Michigan looked unstoppable. The Wolverines defeated Texas A&M 41-3 in a top-5 matchup earlier in the year and were coming off a 56-0 drubbing of No. 14 Wisconsin. On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan was yielding just seven points per game.
Minnesota Defense Dominates
One touchdown would be enough that day for Minnesota. Marion Barber’s 3-yard touchdown run was all the Gophers would need. Kicker Paul Rogind connected on kicks of 41 and 37 yards before capping the scoring in the fourth with a 31-yard make.
The story of the day, however, was the Minnesota defense. The Golden Gophers recovered three Michigan fumbles and picked off quarterback Rick Leach twice.
It was an errant pitch from Leach that set up Minnesota’s only touchdown. Minnesota recovered at the Michigan 12-yard-line before Barber punched it in.
Turnover-free on offense, Minnesota held Michigan to just 202 total yards. The Wolverines managed just 80 yards rushing on 33 carries — a dismal average of just 2.4 yards per carry.
New York Times
The loss for Michigan would be an outlier during an otherwise unblemished regular season. At 10-1, the Wolverines claimed the Big Ten title before falling to Washington in the Rose Bowl. Michigan finished 10-2 and No. 9 in the AP Poll.
Minnesota would make its way into the polls following the win, but suffered consecutive losses to Indiana and Michigan State afterward. The Golden Gophers beat Illinois and Wisconsin to close the regular season, but were defeated by Maryland in the Hall of Fame Classic.
Minnesota finished just 7-5 and unranked, but managed to snap a 9-game skid to Michigan and shut out the Wolverines. It did so on this day 45 years ago.
Photo provided by Minnesota athletics