We got some good feedback over the course of the last week with regard to our new Mailbag feature here on the blog. I separated the most poignant questions and gave my best shot to answer them below.
I’ll post the Mailbag every Thursday during the football season. If you have a question pertaining to the Cats, the Griz or the Big Sky Conference, hit us up on Twitter -- @CatGrizInsider or @SlimKimmel -- or email me at email@example.com.
* How will the Big Sky Conference pick a winner for the football season? – Scott (via Twitter)
Even though there are four new teams in the league, it's basically still the same process. The team with the best overall record wins the outright league title, and if teams are tied with identical records, they will share the championship.
No longer is there a straight-up round-robin schedule within the league, so the only question that can be asked as far as the conference title after the season is a hypothetical what if." There will always be a question as to who truly is the best team, since it might not be settled on the field anymore.
* Did Chadron State bus or fly to Bozeman? It’d be about a 10-hour drive. – Spencer (via Twitter)
They bussed. And you’re right, it’s a long haul. I suspect it was a longer trip than 10 hours in a slow-moving bus. Probably more like 11 hours. Maybe even 12. Did this affect the way the Eagles played? I didn’t think so. All things considered, Chadron State played a pretty good game. I was especially impressed with their size and physicality up front. They should be in good hands with first-year coach Jay Long.
* Did anyone expect Trent McKinney to perform so well in Week 1? – Mike (via email)
I sure didn’t. McKinney had never taken a live college snap, and he was stepping into a sensitive situation while taking over for suspended QB Jordan Johnson. Every eye in the stadium was on McKinney. I thought he would engineer the Grizzlies’ running game pretty well, but I didn’t expect him to complete 26 of 32 passes (81 percent) with two touchdowns against South Dakota. McKinney was very poised.
Granted, offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach put McKinney in the right positions to succeed -- bubble screens, short swing passes, etc. -- but that’s his job. And McKinney hit on just about everything. McKinney’s first great test is this week at Appalachian State. We’ll see how he responds.
* What is Aleksei Grosulak’s status? – Shane (via Twitter)
Grosulak was listed as “out indefiniltey” on Montana State’s depth chart for the Chadron State game. He sat out while still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. But Rob Ash said this week that the junior linebacker has been cleared to play this week in the Bobcats’ game at Drake, and he’ll get his first game action of the year. It’s been a rough calendar year for Grosulak in terms of injuries, so here’s hoping he can stay healthy from here on out.
* With the Griz having so many obstacles ahead of them right now, does this team have the resilience to overcome them and make a run for the Big Sky title? – Michael (via Twitter)
After the first game, you can’t say no. There were a lot of questions coming into the opener, but we found out a lot. On the field, I’m not sure they have too many obstacles anyway.
Trent McKinney should be just fine at quarterback if he can stay healthy. He’ll take his share of hits in that offense, but he showed he can hold his own even as a redshirt freshman. Also, the Grizzlies running game looks like it will be tough to stop, both because of their depth (Nguyen, Moore, McKinney, Canada) and a big and mobile offensive line. That'll open up the passing game. Lastly, UM’s defense should be OK personnel-wise despite the loss of eight starters. They were fast to the football against South Dakota. The Appalachian State game will provide a stiff test, though.
* How concerning were the Bobcats’ special teams mistakes? – Carl (via email)
Not very. MSU had to use a backup kicker (Trevor Bolton) last week due to Rory Perez’s one-game suspension, and that unfamiliarity probably played a role in the Cats having two extra-points blocked. But Perez returns this week for the Drake game, and he’ll handle the placekicking and punting duties. So they should be better in that area.
As for the punt return game, the Bobcats are fine with Shawn Johnson. His 63-yard return in the second quarter set up a touchdown, and showed what kind of weapon he is. He just needs to be a little more mindful of protecting the ball while fielding it. When he does, look out.
* The last time the Griz played Appalachian State, Armanti Edwards was the QB. Who is the QB now, and how good is he? – Katie (via email)
It’s Jamal Jackson, and he’s very good. Mick Delaney compared him to Edwards, but added that Jackson “is three inches taller and about 25 pounds heavier.” Edwards proved he could win championships, and is probably the greatest quarterback in the history of Division I-AA/FCS football, so Jackson has a long way to go. Still, he’ll be a challenge for the Griz this weekend. Jackson stepped into the starting role at ASU last year and threw for a sophomore school-record 2,001 yards and accounted for 22 touchdowns. In a Week 1 loss at FBS foe East Carolina last Saturday, Jackson threw for 300 yards and ran for a touchdown.