ANN ARBOR - As it has been through six games this college football season, the University of Michigan was stuck in a holding pattern yesterday, hovering somewhere between mediocre and slightly above average.
With 1:27 remaining in its 23-20 loss to Minnesota, that pattern appeared that it would be good enough to scratch out another last-minute or overtime victory.
The Golden Gophers were without their starting quarterback, they faced a third-and-10 from their 26, and were in no position to be risky with a pass tied at 20. They knew it, Michigan knew it and pretty much all 111,117 in attendance knew it.
But Minnesota sophomore tailback Gary Russell managed to stun all of the above when he ripped off a 61-yard run around right end to set up Jason Giannini's game-winning 30-yard field goal with one second remaining.
"Coming from Ohio [Canton GlenOak High School], the Michigan game is important," said Giannini. "I've always dreamed of playing and beating Michigan, and it came true."
The ending was more of a nightmare for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
"We knew they were going to run the football," said Carr, who entered 8-0 versus the Gophers. "That's the frustrating, discouraging thing about that play. They were trying to run the clock out or at least get out of their own end. When that play happens at that time in a ballgame, it's very difficult to overcome, and we couldn't overcome it."
The victory snapped Minnesota's 16-game losing streak against Michigan in the 94th Battle for the Little Brown Jug, which the Golden Gophers streaked across the field to the Wolverines' sideline to collect.
For good measure, the Gophers also planted their school flag along with planting Carr's wayward 3-3 team in the unfamiliar position of virtually being out of contention early in the conference race at 1-2.
The Golden Gophers (5-1, 2-1) thus shook off a humbling 44-14 hammering from Penn State a week earlier, and put to rest the frustration of not beating Michigan since 1986.
"It's been 19 years since we've had the Brown Jug," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "We have some guys in the locker room right now who aren't 19 years old. It's been a long time."
Michigan moved 67 yards on the game's first possession to set up a 24-yard Garrett Rivas field goal for a 3-0 lead. Minnesota knotted the score on Giannini's 29-yard field goal 2:20 into the second quarter.
The field-goal duel continued when Rivas booted a 47-yarder 5:50 before halftime, and a Minnesota turnover on the next play from scrimmage led to the game's first touchdown.
Gopher tailback Laurence Maroney (36 carries, 129 yards), the Big Ten's leading rusher coming in, fumbled on a hit from Scott graduate Willis Barringer, and the ball popped directly to Chris Graham at the Minnesota 23.
Five plays later, UM tailback Mike Hart (28 carries, 109 yards) rammed in on his second try from the 1, and Michgian went up 13-3 with 3:10 left in the half.
The Gophers struck back with quarterback Bryan Cupito completing three of four passes during a 75-yard TD drive.
His 35-yarder to Jared Ellerson got the Gophers to the Michigan 28, and his 20-yarder to Ernie Wheelwright was good for the score 58 seconds before halftime.
Giannini's 26-yard field goal
2:20 into the third quarter was set up by Jakari Wallace's 60-yard return of the second-half kickoff.
That return was eclipsed, however, by Steve Breaston's electrifying 95-yard TD return on the ensuing kickoff.
But Maroney capped a 13-play, 61-yard drive - one aided by two 15-yard Michigan pass-interference penalties - with a one-yard TD run at the 6:12 mark of the third quarter.
Cupito (11 of 23, 139 yards) left the game with 6:57 remaining following a hard hit from Wolverine linebacker LaMarr Woodley on a pass attempt.
"This wasn't just for the Jug, it was for the Big Ten championship," Woodley said. "We have to play for our pride now. A lot of people lost faith in us today, and we have to win them back."
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