SANTA CLARA -- Since the 2019 season that put him on NFL scouts' radar, Trey Lance has started only one game. That came as a redshirt sophomore at North Dakota State on Oct. 3, 2020, against Central Arkansas.
This week, Lance is trying to act as if he has been here before -- even though it has been a while -- as he nears his first NFL start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
“I'm excited, obviously, but not going to make it bigger than what it is,” Lance said Friday, shortly after coach Kyle Shanahan announced him as the 49ers' Week 5 starting quarterback. “I feel prepared and had a good week preparing, I guess, honestly, it's pretty similar to how I usually do."
Lance prepared the first four weeks of the season for a specific package of plays as Jimmy Garoppolo’s backup. After Garoppolo sustained a right calf injury last Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, Lance was thrust into the action.
Lance played 39 snaps in the second half and led the 49ers on two touchdown drives in a 28-21 loss to the Seahawks.
Lance always watched a lot of game film with his father, Carlton, a former player and coach. This week, he was able to learn more from dissecting his own performance against the Seahawks, in which he completed 9 of 18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Lance took all the practice repetitions this week, and will be asked to execute a game plan that has been created to highlight his strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the Cardinals’ defense.
“My preparation is pretty similar, obviously other than getting more reps,” Lance said. “But the offense is the offense. Me and Jimmy do a lot of similar things, and play and see the game in a similar way. So, nothing really changes.
“Obviously, the defense dictates more what we do than anything.”
Lance’s only full season as a college starter came in 2019, when he won the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level. The Bison went 16-0 en route to the national championship.
In his only full season of college football, Lance threw 28 touchdown passes without an interception, and rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.