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'We’re not after being in the ballpark': MSU coach Vigen reflects on past season with optimism going into next

North Dakota State at Montana State
Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 19, 2023

BOZEMAN — An overturned touchdown away from beating South Dakota State on Sept. 9.

A missed field goal away from heading to overtime against Idaho on Oct. 28.

And a blocked extra point away from heading to double overtime versus North Dakota State in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Montana State's four losses on the season were to teams that eventually went on to the quarterfinal, semifinal and/or championship games in the playoffs.

"We’re not after that," Bobcats coach Brent Vigen said. "We’re not after being in the ballpark. We want to be the last team standing."

The Bobcats' season ended in heartbreaking fashion to NDSU. Suddenly the team had to come to terms with its story for the 2023 season coming to a close.

"That’s why it was such an abrupt ending," Vigen explained. "You think even two weeks later, you kind of wonder why that happened. But there was opportunities. There was opportunities in that game to open it up, and we just, we didn’t do it that day."

An offseason decision already made was to not renew defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza's contract for next season.

MSU promoted linebackers coach and assistant head coach Bobby Daly to defensive coordinator, along with defensive line coach Shawn Howe being named co-defensive coordinator.

Vigen explained the trust he and the players have in this change.

"I’ll say this: There’s certainly confidence amongst our players in both of them as teachers, as guys that are demanding and as guys that are going to get the best out of our guys," Vigen said. "You know, you’ve seen constant development out of both of those position groups that they’ve coached."

Despite losing both starting offensive guards, Omar Aigbedion and Rush Reimer, to the transfer portal, along with standout defensive tackle Sebastian Valdez — there was mostly retention within the program and its players.

It speaks to the culture Vigen has built. According to him, that starts well before the transfer portal opens.

"Retaining your guys is about the experience that they have." Vigen explained. "And, at the same time, understanding that there might be some scenarios, some things offered to some guys that you can’t contend with.

"So, we got a little bit of both. We got more of those guys that in their mind at this point in time wouldn’t even think of leaving."