FRISCO, Texas — It was nearly 11 months ago that Montana State athletic director Leon Costello introduced Brent Vigen as the Bobcats 33rd football head coach.
During his introductory press conference dated Feb. 16, Vigen made it clear what his intentions were at Montana State declaring "we have to have a clear vision that going after a national championship is what we’re all about.”
Fast-forward almost 10 months to the day, Montana State punched their ticket to the FCS national championship with a 31-17 victory over South Dakota State.
"To achieve something you have to be able to see it, and I didn’t know if we would make it here, but I knew we could and I wanted that message to be heard loud and clear," Vigen explained. "That was based on where I thought this program was at, where I thought our talent was as at.”
His 12 wins this season are a program-best for a first-year head coach, but the road wasn’t easy getting here.
Vigen will tell you it all started under Jeff Choate, who turned a 2016 team with a 4-7 record into a playoff contender.
"A lot of our guys got a taste of playoff football in ‘18 and ‘19," Vigen added. "Probably felt like they got really close in ‘19.”
That bitter taste carried on in 2020 due to that pandemic canceling their fall season; and following in 2021, the departure of Jeff Choate.
However, despite everything this program has gone through, Montana State still remains in reach of a national championship.
“That’s just a testament to this team," senior wide receiver Lance McCutcheon explained. "No matter who came in to take the coaching job we were all ready to play, ready to compete, and just ready to prove ourselves.”
“This season has been in the making for a year and a half - the entire time that I’ve been here," freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott said. "We’ve gotten a lot of good work in, and we’re confident that we deserve to be here.”
The FCS national championship is a stage - and opponent - Vigen is all too familiar with.
During his 16 seasons with North Dakota State, Vigen has had a hand in three of the program’s eight national titles at the FCS level, so simply put – he knows what it takes to be a championship team.
“It was a really determined outfit when I took over in February, and we implemented some changes along the way," Vigen explained. "The building blocks February through April, that was kind of the first faze. That was just getting to kind of know each other. Getting to a point where we can trust each other faze. Laying out summer and just pure hard work in taking another step forward from that perspective.”
Their hard work in the off-season was evident, producing not only the best rushing offense in the Big Sky but also an elite defense allowing just under 14 points a game.
“No matter what obstacles were in the way, no matter what things could have gone wrong, what things changed, it didn’t really matter to us," senior tight end Ryan Davis stated. "We had one goal in mind.”
“The goal isn’t to get to the game," senior offensive lineman Lewis Kidd added. "It’s to win the game. We want to do everything in our power to finish this thing the right way.”