BOZEMAN — Coming into this season, Montana State football was fueled by its 2022 semifinal loss to reigning national champion South Dakota State.
The Bobcats had their hopes set on returning far into the postseason, with a goal of winning a national championship.
"There was one outcome of this season that was probably going to satisfy us, and we’re far from that," Bobcats coach Brent Vigen said following their second-round playoff loss to North Dakota State on Saturday.
He was referring to the team's goal of winning a national championship, which was ultimately cut short on Saturday in the loss to NDSU.
Despite not achieving the ultimate goal, the Bobcats made strides as a program. They were an overturned touchdown away from taking down SDSU in Week 2. They were a blocked extra point away from NDSU on Saturday.
"We came up short to both Dakota teams this year, but I felt like, you know, we did a good job matching them, if not being more physical than them," Bobcats offensive lineman Justus Perkins said in the postgame press conference on Saturday. "Obviously, there’s still work to be done because it didn’t get us over the hump."
Bobcats defensive lineman Sebastian Valdez reflected Perkins' feelings about the side of the ball he helps lead as well.
"If you turn on the film, you’re not going to see someone getting over-dominated," he said. "I think we played well in the trenches, and we improved a lot from last year. And I feel like we deserve the respect that we need. But besides that, it was a physical game, and they’re a good team."
Montana State lived up to the physical element needed for this season, but what hurt the Bobcats in their losses were the multiple points left on the field by missed kicks.
"We need to be able to count on being able to knock those kicks through, and we weren’t able to do that (Saturday), nor in some other games, so, you know, we need to get that piece corrected," Vigen said.
The team’s story this season has come to a close, which is what hurts the most for them. It’s one that during fall camp seemed like it could have a fairy tale ending.
"You don’t want to see this group, their story, come to end, but it has and, you know, we got to move on," Vigen sighed. "Like I said, there’s 90-plus guys and the coaches. We need to look at where we’re at and keep moving this thing forward."
Valdez put into words how already motivated the Bobcats are for next season.
"I feel like a lot of guys are ready and motivated," he said. "This is all the motivation we need. As soon as we can get back to work is what we’re going to be doing."