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Cal Football

Bear Insider Video: Cal QBs Kai Millner and Fernando Mendoza

November 25, 2022

Redshirt frosh QB Kai Millner and frosh QB Fernando Mendoza both turned heads heading into the season, particularly Millner in the spring and Mendoza in the fall.

After briefly playing in the WSU game earlier this season, Millner got his first chance for extended play in the Bears’ loss to Oregon, taking over for an injured Jack Plummer. The talented rs frosh took advantage of the opportunity, going 8-for-11 for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns in his second half stint.

“It felt great to be on the field,” said Millner. “It'd been a while since I had been able to go out there and play for an extended period of time. So to be able to get out there and especially get the first touchdowns to both Monroe Young and Justin Baker (and himself) that was huge for me to share that moment with them so it was really exciting.”

Mendoza was a late addition to the 2022 class so he wasn’t as well-known to Cal fans as perhaps the recruits they’d tracked throughout recruiting season but he quickly opened eyes in fall camp with his arm talent and poise in the pocket.

“Oh, that was great,” said Mendoza of his first collegiate experience in fall camp. “You know, coming in from high school to transition from high school to college, being surrounded by a great quarterback room such as Kai himself and all the other guys, and learning from all the different coaches, it was really great. And I really just was immersed into a great culture in which I was able to learn. And then early on, you have some struggles here and there, but then at the end of fall camp, I believe I hit my stride, which was great. So I had a lot of fun. It is kind of sad the season’s coming to end, you know? It's been so much fun. I'm enjoying just improving every day.”

Millner was asked about his thoughts on his younger teammate’s progress so far.

“Improvement, improvement is a big thing,” noted Millner. “I mean, we talk almost every day just about anything and everything. What we're seeing on the field, where we're trying to make each other better. But I'd say just from the beginning to where he is right now, he's someone that is looking to improve every day. He's committed to the game, always in the film room, always working after practice. And that's just the kind of guy he is all around.”

Mendoza had plenty of compliments in return.

“I mean, you guys got to see a little bit of Kai's name when he had extended playing time in the Oregon game. When Kai's in the field, you just feel overloaded with excitement and joy. Cause you know the play's gonna have a positive outlook. And just watching Kai play and being able to learn from him and all the other quarterbacks is great. So I'm just really grateful to be here and being able to spectate and learn from guys. As Kai said, we talk every day. We watch film together a lot, and we learn and grow together and help each other with constructive criticism and also just support with whatever, whether it be just football, academics or whatever. So, you know, I love Kai. That's my guy, and I'm looking forward to growing with him and just scoring many touchdowns together.”

Following Cal’s loss at Oregon State, head coach Justin Wilcox shook things up, dismissing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave as well as offensive line coach Angus McClure. Both QBs were asked about the impact on the team going forward.

“We have respect for every coach, especially coaching changes,” noted Millner. “We believe whatever Coach Wilcox does is in the best interest of us winning. And we totally believe and totally give all our respect and everything to the Cal football program and just cannot wait to really bring us back and you really just win more win ball games and just really help create with all our teammates a winning culture, bringing Cal back to life.

“One of the things that me and Kai were talking about the other day was how alive the stadium was on Saturday versus Stanford and it was great. I personally respect all the coaches and the coaches here that are helping us out. It's a great collaborative effort. So we're just really appreciative of everybody that's helping.”

“I think in general, there has been a lot of change, but guys have kind of just taken it in stride and we've all kind of moved together as a team,” noted Millner. ‘We're looking forward to whatever we can do these next few weeks. So I was really excited that all the guys kind of came together and just said this is what's going on and we're all gonna band together and just do the best we can in the last game.”

Despite the team’s disappointing 4-7/2-6 start, the players are optimistic with the returning young talent on the roster and are bullish rather than bearish in their outlook on the program’s future.

“Absolutely,” agreed Millner. “I think that we look at this season as it didn't go our way necessarily, but we have a young team and we have a lot of guys that are looking to get better. I mean, a lot of guys have gotten better this year and are coming back. So I think especially as an offense, we're looking to get even better and improve and are really looking forward to next year.”

“I think you used a perfect word, optimism,” agreed Mendoza. “I mean everybody, whether it be the coaches, staff, the players, the trainers, everybody just has a positive outlook on this team. And we strongly believe that the next upcoming years are gonna be great years of winning records and such but we also have to forget this year's not over. We're preparing and we have to play UCLA and that's gonna be a great game for us,. We're gonna be able to show what we got and put our best foot forward. And so optimism is the word, as you said. We have so many great players and I believe that our chemistry is getting better every day. So there's just great things to look for in the future.”

This afternoon the Bears will get their last chance to put a bit of a positive spin on the end of the season with an upset win over 8-3/5-3 #18 UCLA. Both QBs were asked what a win would mean to the program.

“Everything,” said Millner. “I think to send the older guys that are gonna be leaving us off with a win and to just go out there and beat one of the top teams in the Pac. I mean, that'd be huge. It would mean everything to us.”

“UCLA is a great team,” agreed Mendoza. “We respect them and we’ve been watching their film and we think they're really great. They're really great opponents. And I think as Kai said, it would mean the world for us. We know we can beat them and we know how we stack up against them. And we really want the opportunity to be able to show who we are on Saturday. And especially for the older guys and everybody, people who have been mentors to Kai and I to just really just show out for them and just help us and help them in any way we can.”


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Bear Insider Video: Cal QBs Kai Millner and Fernando Mendoza

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