Bart Miller, the 30-year-old Omaha native whom the Gophers just hired as offensive line coach, deserves credit for saving Wisconsin's 2012 Rose Bowl season.
At least that's how Kyle Costigan sees it.
Costigan was a sophomore guard that year, playing alongside four future NFL linemen. But the Badgers were sputtering, having rushed for just 35 yards in a Week 2 loss at Oregon State.
One day later, then-coach Bret Bielema made the stunning decision to fire offensive line coach Mike Markuson and replace him with a 27-year-old Badgers graduate assistant.
"All the offensive linemen on the team loved Coach Miller," Costigan said. "We all rallied around the fact he was becoming the coach. We even had a guy on the team, Ryan Groy, who made shirts that said, 'It's Miller Time.' "
Costigan still has the black T-shirt, which includes a picture of Miller's face.
The coaching change "totally turned the season around," Costigan said. "That one thing is kind of what flipped a switch, and everything pulled a 180."
Now, the Gophers hope Miller can do the same for them, as substandard line play was at the root of their tumble this season to 105th in the nation in scoring offense (22.5 points per game).
Costigan said Miller helped the Badgers make some technical adjustments that reignited the offense. It went from 103rd nationally in rushing to finish 12th in that category with Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon. The Badgers went just 8-6 but throttled Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten title game before losing to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
"Coach Miller wasn't like some guy, who, when they get older, they kind of get disconnected from the game and reality and what you can really do," Costigan said.
"He was still really fresh from playing [at New Mexico]. He was still in good shape and could have been playing himself. Guys could relate to him and played really well for him."
Bielema pulled another stunner later in 2012 when he left for Arkansas. Athletic director Barry Alvarez replaced him with Gary Andersen, from Utah State, who got to pick his own staff.
"I really wanted to keep Coach Miller," Costigan said. "I brought that up right away in my postseason evaluation. I know a lot of other linemen did, too, but unfortunately it didn't work out.
"And not that it was a bad thing. The O-line coach we had [T.J. Woods from Utah State] did a great job."
But critics noticed a dip in Wisconsin's prolific offensive line development under Andersen that current coach Paul Chryst is working to restore.
Meanwhile, Miller became the offensive line coach at New Mexico State and then spent two years as the offensive line coach at Florida Atlantic before landing the Gophers job. The team is withholding interviews from Miller and new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson until next week's introductory news conference.
"I share Coach Claeys' vision for the program, and it's an opportunity to get back to the brand of football that I believe in and that I like to coach," Miller said in a news release. "I think we're going to do some great things."
Costigan, now a Badgers graduate assistant coach, spent five minutes on the telephone praising Miller this week before halting the conversation to make one thing clear.
"Obviously, I played for Wisconsin, so I'm not a Minnesota fan by any stretch of the imagination," Costigan said.
"But Coach [Bart] Miller kind of represents everything you want in a coach. He brings contagious enthusiasm and is just a really passionate guy.
"He's a guy who creates a culture and kind of makes guys do things the right way. As much as it kills me to say, I think Minnesota made a great hire."