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Mendoza Ready For the Challenge

October 13, 2023
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It would take extensive research to find out for sure, but it’s a good bet that very few college quarterbacks in history have made their first two starts against ranked teams. Cal redshirt freshman Francisco Mendoza, who spent the first mon*th of the season third on the Bears’ depth chart before starting last week against No. 15 Oregon State, will join that list Saturday at No. 16 Utah.

Mendoza doesn’t appear intimidated about the prospect. If anything, he’s welcoming the opportunity with open arms.

“Like I told the offensive coaches when they gave me the nod, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I wanted to be thrown into the fire playing two ranked opponents as my first two starts,” Mendoza told reporters earlier this week. “I can’t wait because I know it’s going to be electric and it’s going to be a great opportunity. At the end of the day, these are the moments you live for, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Mendoza’s rise to Cal’s starting quarterback is not completely a surprise. During the Bears first four games when Sam Jackson V and Ben Finley shared the job, head coach Justin Wilcox and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital repeatedly kept mentioning Fernando as being in the mix, although he had only played a handful of snaps in the season-opener against North Texas.

Jackson and Finley both had their bright moments but neither was consistent enough to lock down the starting job. Enter Mendoza, who passed for 207 yards and two touchdowns with one interceptuion while leading the Bears to a season-high 40 points.

Mendoza did not get sacked once and guided Cal’s offense to a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone.

“From a preparation standpoint and energy standpoint, Fernando was the guy that was needed to give us a spark offensively,” Spavital said. “His preparation going into the week and how he handled every little moving part, he knew the game plan from top to bottom, all the insides and out of everything. The team was very confident in Fernando going out there.

“He had a little bit of nerves, missed about four throws in that first quarter that were just a little off. Once he settled down he was playing some pretty clean football. He graded out at almost 100 percent in decision-making, and that means that the ball’s going to the right spots and giving us a chance to be competitive.”

Like his game against the Beavers, Mendoza has handled his rise from third on the depth chart to starting quarterback with relative ease. There’s been no abrupt change in his weekly routine, and he still strolls around the Berkeley campus as a relatively unknown. There hasn’t been much hype from other students about his promotion, and that’s exactly how Mendoza likes it.

“The beautiful thing about Cal and about Berkeley is how everyone is so invested into academics. I’m very invested in academics myself,” Mendoza said. “There hasn’t really been any fanfare throughout campus. At the end of the day, that stuff, it’s cool but it doesn’t really matter to me and it hasn’t occurred to me. I’m just looking forward to each week improving, improving because at the end of the day that stuff goes and comes as quickly as you have one good week and one bad week. I’m looking to stay and play consistently good football.

“I’ve really, in a sense, been proud of the consistent method and consistent system that I’ve used. It’s really just been the same throughout all weeks. However this week, especially with Utah and last week when I was named the starter against Oregon State, it got ramped up little bit. However, at the end of the day I aim to be the same guy to my teammates on the field as it was week one to now, week six or seven.”

That seems to be the general consensus when others talk about Mendoza, that his preparation is sharp and his demeanor is steady and consistent throughout.

That will all be put to the test this week against Utah, which has a rich history on defense and is once again using its success on that side of the ball as the base of this season’s team.

“I know the defense is the strength of the team at the moment,” Mendoza said. “Preparing for this defense, I will say, it’s a lot. They’re a really talented defense, really well-coached, and they have amazing players.”

Spavital didn’t hesitate when asked what he expects Utah to do against Mendoza, who clearly isn’t as experienced as the other quarterbacks the Utes have faced.

“I think they’re going to try to make him win the game,” Spavital said. “They’re going to load the box up, I think they’re going to play man. We’re going to have to get open and he’s going to have to be accurate with the football.”

Mendoza won’t be going into enemy territory alone. He had his father and an uncle at Memorial Stadium for the Oregon State game, and his godfather lives in Utah and will attend the game against the Utes.

“I’ve heard Utah’s an electric atmosphere from the other players that played there in previous years. I’m really looking forward to it,” Mendoza said. “I know they have a great fan base.”

Mendoza’s promotion to starter could finally bring some stability to Cal’s offense, which has done well in the running game but has been sporadic when passing the ball. Both players and coaches spoke after the Oregon State game about the difference in energy on the Bears sidelines and how Mendoza was able to stay calm no matter the situation.

In that way, Mendoza is hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous Cal quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff and Davis Webb.

“The history of Cal quarterbacks has been really rich,” Mendoza said. “We have a sign up in the facility that Cal has the most starting quarterbacks that have started in a Super Bowl. That’s an amazing stat. That just shows you how Cal quarterbacks are not only great in college, they’re really successful in the NFL and they win in the NFL as well.

“Cal took a chance on me. I wasn’t highly recruited and it was essentially my only FBS offer, so I was really grateful for that. Even if there was other offers and other interest on the table, I would have chose Cal just because of their amazing academics, amazing quarterback history.

Discussion from...

Mendoza Ready For the Challenge

4,676 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by heartofthebear
bearsandgiants
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This man deserves success. Really pulling for him tomorrow, and hoping our defense pulls it together.
4thGenCal
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bearsandgiants said:

This man deserves success. Really pulling for him tomorrow, and hoping our defense pulls it together.
100% agree, such a humble, likable and genuine student athlete. Pulling for him to excel and be the leader on offense, the team needs.
heartofthebear
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I'm not sure Utah's just "loading the box". I think they are going to bring lots of pressure.
If Mendoza really graded out near 100% on decision making, he will need nearly all of that percentage when under pressure. That will be the issue that makes or breaks him. But also, I hope he continues to run the mesh point well on QB draws. The fake he made to Thomas late in the game happened right in front of where I was sitting and it was so good that Thomas was full on tackled and Mendoza was over 5 yards downfield before anybody, literally anybody, knew he had the ball. I certainly didn't and I could see everything. It really looked like Thomas had the ball, not Mendoza. That kind of play can be very successful if they are loading the box because Mendoza ran around right end. I think he gained 14 yards on the play.

In any case, it will be an interesting test of what we really have in Mendoza. And, as the founding member of the Mendoza fan club, of course I want him to succeed. But I also don't want him to get beat up and I hope we go to the more mobile Jackson if need be.
Wang24
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If only our WR core was decent… not superb, but just decent… Hightower is not impressive at all (a transfer and a senior) , Grizelle has all the physical measurables but lack the talent ( why is he starting over Mavin Anderson), and Monroe young should be benched (put in one of the 2023 recruits). Our TEs need to be utilized more!
OsoDorado
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Two nice little details I noticed in Fernando's first start:

First, his beautiful handoffs. He puts the ball exactly where the RB can take it almost effortlessly. This will definitely result in less fumbled handoffs over time.

Second, his good decision-making on passes, which will likely result in fewer interceptions.

Over the course of a season these 2 details should add up to noticeably less turnovers, which may well be the difference in several games ....
01Bear
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heartofthebear said:

I'm not sure Utah's just "loading the box". I think they are going to bring lots of pressure.
If Mendoza really graded out near 100% on decision making, he will need nearly all of that percentage when under pressure. That will be the issue that makes or breaks him. But also, I hope he continues to run the mesh point well on QB draws. The fake he made to Thomas late in the game happened right in front of where I was sitting and it was so good that Thomas was full on tackled and Mendoza was over 5 yards downfield before anybody, literally anybody, knew he had the ball. I certainly didn't and I could see everything. It really looked like Thomas had the ball, not Mendoza. That kind of play can be very successful if they are loading the box because Mendoza ran around right end. I think he gained 14 yards on the play.

In any case, it will be an interesting test of what we really have in Mendoza. And, as the founding member of the Mendoza fan club, of course I want him to succeed. But I also don't want him to get beat up and I hope we go to the more mobile Jackson if need be.

Grizzell was a walk-on. He's developing really well. He may not have even reached his ceiling, yet. He's unlikely to be a burner, but he shows signs of being a good blocker and route runner. He may not ever develop the foot speed to play on Sundays, but he can still have a really good Cal career.
heartofthebear
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01Bear said:

heartofthebear said:

I'm not sure Utah's just "loading the box". I think they are going to bring lots of pressure.
If Mendoza really graded out near 100% on decision making, he will need nearly all of that percentage when under pressure. That will be the issue that makes or breaks him. But also, I hope he continues to run the mesh point well on QB draws. The fake he made to Thomas late in the game happened right in front of where I was sitting and it was so good that Thomas was full on tackled and Mendoza was over 5 yards downfield before anybody, literally anybody, knew he had the ball. I certainly didn't and I could see everything. It really looked like Thomas had the ball, not Mendoza. That kind of play can be very successful if they are loading the box because Mendoza ran around right end. I think he gained 14 yards on the play.

In any case, it will be an interesting test of what we really have in Mendoza. And, as the founding member of the Mendoza fan club, of course I want him to succeed. But I also don't want him to get beat up and I hope we go to the more mobile Jackson if need be.

Grizzell was a walk-on. He's developing really well. He may not have even reached his ceiling, yet. He's unlikely to be a burner, but he shows signs of being a good blocker and route runner. He may not ever develop the foot speed to play on Sundays, but he can still have a really good Cal career.
I'm not sure what this has to do with Mendoza other than it's a passing connection that involves 2 unlikely stars. One area where I think the Cal football program has consistently been successful is in developing walk-ons. Heck they've probably done more with walk-ons than with 4 stars. Grizzell is yet another example. I believe Woodson, our starting safety was also a walk-on. I love watching these guys. They play with an edge.
01Bear
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heartofthebear said:

01Bear said:

heartofthebear said:

I'm not sure Utah's just "loading the box". I think they are going to bring lots of pressure.
If Mendoza really graded out near 100% on decision making, he will need nearly all of that percentage when under pressure. That will be the issue that makes or breaks him. But also, I hope he continues to run the mesh point well on QB draws. The fake he made to Thomas late in the game happened right in front of where I was sitting and it was so good that Thomas was full on tackled and Mendoza was over 5 yards downfield before anybody, literally anybody, knew he had the ball. I certainly didn't and I could see everything. It really looked like Thomas had the ball, not Mendoza. That kind of play can be very successful if they are loading the box because Mendoza ran around right end. I think he gained 14 yards on the play.

In any case, it will be an interesting test of what we really have in Mendoza. And, as the founding member of the Mendoza fan club, of course I want him to succeed. But I also don't want him to get beat up and I hope we go to the more mobile Jackson if need be.

Grizzell was a walk-on. He's developing really well. He may not have even reached his ceiling, yet. He's unlikely to be a burner, but he shows signs of being a good blocker and route runner. He may not ever develop the foot speed to play on Sundays, but he can still have a really good Cal career.
I'm not sure what this has to do with Mendoza other than it's a passing connection that involves 2 unlikely stars. One area where I think the Cal football program has consistently been successful is in developing walk-ons. Heck they've probably done more with walk-ons than with 4 stars. Grizzell is yet another example. I believe Woodson, our starting safety was also a walk-on. I love watching these guys. They play with an edge.

My bad! I think I was trying to reply to a post in another thread. I must've got them confused. Sorry for the confusion!
heartofthebear
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01Bear said:

heartofthebear said:

01Bear said:

heartofthebear said:

I'm not sure Utah's just "loading the box". I think they are going to bring lots of pressure.
If Mendoza really graded out near 100% on decision making, he will need nearly all of that percentage when under pressure. That will be the issue that makes or breaks him. But also, I hope he continues to run the mesh point well on QB draws. The fake he made to Thomas late in the game happened right in front of where I was sitting and it was so good that Thomas was full on tackled and Mendoza was over 5 yards downfield before anybody, literally anybody, knew he had the ball. I certainly didn't and I could see everything. It really looked like Thomas had the ball, not Mendoza. That kind of play can be very successful if they are loading the box because Mendoza ran around right end. I think he gained 14 yards on the play.

In any case, it will be an interesting test of what we really have in Mendoza. And, as the founding member of the Mendoza fan club, of course I want him to succeed. But I also don't want him to get beat up and I hope we go to the more mobile Jackson if need be.

Grizzell was a walk-on. He's developing really well. He may not have even reached his ceiling, yet. He's unlikely to be a burner, but he shows signs of being a good blocker and route runner. He may not ever develop the foot speed to play on Sundays, but he can still have a really good Cal career.
I'm not sure what this has to do with Mendoza other than it's a passing connection that involves 2 unlikely stars. One area where I think the Cal football program has consistently been successful is in developing walk-ons. Heck they've probably done more with walk-ons than with 4 stars. Grizzell is yet another example. I believe Woodson, our starting safety was also a walk-on. I love watching these guys. They play with an edge.

My bad! I think I was trying to reply to a post in another thread. I must've got them confused. Sorry for the confusion!
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