The Montana Grizzlies football team got their season off to a wild start last Saturday afternoon against the No. 1 team in the FCS, the North Dakota State Bison. The Griz finished the game with 434 passing yards behind new head coach Bob Stitt’s gun-slinging offensive scheme. What makes those receiving yards possible, of course, is the team’s experienced receiving corps.
Behind big games from Ellis Henderson and Jamaal Jones, Montana’s wide outs were on full display in front of ESPN cameras. But another player that knows a thing or two about Montana’s offensive attack is veteran receiver Chase Naccarato.
The redshirt junior played in eight games his true freshman season, and has seen consistent playing time since then, up until the 2014 season in which he managed to play in only three games due to injuries.
He is back this season with a thirst to contribute to a pass-happy Montana team. Expected to compete for significant playing time at the “z” slot receiver -- he started in last week's game -- Naccarato is eager to show Griz Nation he is back in full force. His next chance will come against Cal Poly this Saturday. The Spokane native sat down with the Missoulian before an afternoon September practice.
Q: What is your major and why study that field?
A: I’m majoring in organizational communication, as well as a business minor. To be honest, I’m not really exactly sure what I want to do after college yet like a lot of people. My family has always been business-oriented so that made me want to look at that area.
Q: After finishing last season with a tough loss to EWU in the playoffs, what did it feel like to be back out on the field?
A: I really can’t describe it. It was one of the most intense moments of my life right there at the end and it obviously went great for us, but it could have ended tragically. So we’re thankful that it ended up being a fantastic win for us, and we are getting ready for the next.
Q: Joey Counts finds his way into the end zone for the touchdown that sealed you guys the win. What was your immediate reaction?
A: I actually started running out on the field to celebrate and then I got yanked back. I was super excited, it was one of those moments where you just lose control of your emotions.
Q: With it being such a massive game because of the ESPN coverage, them being the No. 1 FCS team, what do you think getting a win like that meant for the team and the community?
A: I think it meant a lot to the entire Griz family and Missoula as a whole. I had so many people pull me in after the game and genuinely thank me for our performance. It’s always nice to have that support from everyone. It just adds on to the fact that we won a great game.
Q: Besides smoky, how would you describe the atmosphere of the game to someone who wasn’t there?
A: It was electric, you could feel it. Just walking in and seeing our fans and their fans, you could cut the tension with a knife. It was awesome. The team was focused and fired up, and I think we gave everyone a fun game to watch.
Q: Stitt’s new offense is coming into place and you competing for significant playing time, how hard has it been adjusting to that new system and pace as a receiver?
A: Ever since I came here as a true freshman it’s always been competitive. Nothing is given here and that’s been proven. I’m used to the competition and proving myself. I’m just thankful to have earned the spot and the playing time that I’ve gotten.
Q: What do you think of the job Brady Gustafson has done stepping into the spotlight as the starting quarterback?
A: He’s done fantastic. I’ve been very impressed with Brady. Ever since he took over that role in the springtime, he has not only played great as a quarterback, but he has acted as a true leader as well.
Q: How is the team preparing for Cal Poly and what do you guys know about them that will give you an advantage?
A: They’re a really tough team. We have to prepare for them the same way we did North Dakota State. They are getting treated like they are the new No. 1 team in the country, so we’re going to practice our a**** off and see how it goes.
Q: With Ellis Henderson being back, Jamaal Jones being the player he is, you guys have a solid receiving corps. Passing is a huge part of what you guys are looking to do obviously. How would you describe your relationships with each other?
A: Our crew of receivers is pretty cool. Jamaal and Ellis are really tight, and I am good friends with those guys. We are like a family within a family, and I think we are respected for all the talent we hold at that position.