BOZEMAN — This past February, Montana State welcomed Brent Vigen as their 33rd head coach of the program.
Vigen previously spent time at the University of Wyoming as an offensive coordinator, and in an interesting twist of fate, the Cowboys just happen to be the program the Bobcats are opening their season against this Saturday.
As he prepares for his first game at the helm, Vigen sat down with MTN's Ashley Washburn in an exclusive interview to talk about this upcoming season and his return to Laramie.
Q: Coach, some would say that it’s been a long offseason, nearly two years for the Cats, but we’ve kind of finally gotten to the point where we can almost say that it’s game week. Where’s the team sitting as you guys finish out Fall Camp up?
Vigen: I think good. I think really hungry to play. It has been December of ‘19. I think the shift with the staff kind of created a new start though back in February, so I think we’re more in that motive of February on with this team - this coaching staff. I think our preparation throughout the summer was what we needed, and to this point in Fall Camp we’ve been really pleased with where we’re going and what we’ve done to this point.
Q: Speaking of the coaching staff, this program has gone through a lot of change over the past year - new head coach, new coordinators, new schemes - how has the coaching staff gelled together over the past couple of months?
Vigen: I think very well. I think the blend of bringing in three assistants initially, including both coordinators, and ultimately a fourth, it’s challenging. Guys are getting to know each other both in the work environment and then outside of that too, and I think that takes time. I think both sides - the guys that have been here, the guys that were new - are very open-minded. I think everybody has in common that they want the Bobcats to be the very best.
Q: If we keep on with that theme of change, you guys have a new quarterback taking the reins of Montana State’s offense this fall. What have you seen specifically from Matt Mckay’s game that has impressed you the most?
Vigen: Well, I think in spring we were able to see the array of his ability. Matt has good feet. He’s able to make plays with his legs, but he threw the ball quite well in the spring. I think picked things up pretty well for the first time around, and then what you saw in the summer is him taking the critique from the spring, and I think he had a really good summer on both ends. Then, also getting with our guys from a player-led perspective and lead them. That's allowed him this fall to look like a different play than he was in the spring. I trust that he’s got the ability o keep getting better throughout the fall, and that’s really what we need.”
Q: Most of your coaching career you’ve spent it in a controlled environment up in the press box, but now as a head coach, you’ll be on the sidelines this fall. How have you been mentally preparing yourself for that transition?
Vigen: I haven’t been on the field since 2004, and only one year prior to that. I think for me diving in so to speak on both sides of the football, special teams included in that, and really formulating those complete game thoughts as opposed to being so focused on one side of the football, so focused on calling plays. I think that was helpful for me being in a controlled environment, but when it comes to doing the whole job, I mean being on the field is obviously the place to be. I look forward to being able to engage face-to-face with our plays. Heavy communication with our coaches. I’m sure it will be a learning experience, but I think I’m ready for it.
Q: Looking ahead to that season opener against Wyoming, this will be your first game as Montana State’s head coach, but against your former team. What extra layers does that add for you?
Vigen: There’s so much respect between Coach [Craig] Bohl and myself that I don’t even know how to really put that into words, but I think at the same time he’s going to put his team out there in the best position that they feel like they can win, and that’s what we’re going to do. I’m excited for our guys. That’s the biggest thing. Not only is it their first opportunity to play football in a long, long time, but an opportunity to play against an FBS program. That’s a once-in-a-season opportunity for them.
Q: You've spent months physically preparing for this first game, but asking you, how have you been preparing yourself emotionally. When you picture yourself taking those first couple steps onto the field in War Memorial Stadium, what do you imagine?
Vigen: I think it will be an excitement taking it all in, and I think part of that is the sense of pride that will come from coaching such a fine program like Montana State. I think playing there it’s going to be a charged-up environment. Excited for our guys, and I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions walking out there, but if we’re prepared and like I said in full belief that we can go in there, that’s the biggest thing that I have on my plate.
Montana State’s season opener against Wyoming will kick off this Saturday at 2 p.m. MT on the Mountain West Network.