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Analyzing The Quarterbacks

Different Strokes

USC's Palmer and UCLA's McNown Play the Same Position, but Share Little Else

November 16, 1998|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They'll play the same position in Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl, but that's where the similarities between UCLA quarterback Cade McNown and USC's Carson Palmer seem to end.

McNown is a senior.

Palmer is a freshman.

McNown is left-handed.

Palmer is right-handed.

McNown, one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy, will make the 42nd start of his college career on Saturday.

Palmer will make his third.

McNown lost his lunch on the field earlier this season.

Palmer was a midseason replacement for Mike Van Raaphorst, who had trouble keeping food down.

McNown has completed 637 passes as a collegian.

Palmer has completed 71.

McNown has passed for 60 touchdowns.

Palmer has passed for five.

McNown has accumulated 10,231 yards of total offense, a Pacific 10 Conference record.

Palmer has accumulated 980.

McNown is on schedule to graduate next year with a degree in history.

Palmer has yet to pass a class.

McNown is 3-0 against USC, including last year's 31-24 victory at the Coliseum in which he passed for 213 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 48 yards and rallied the Bruins from a 21-14 deficit.

Palmer's most important regular-season game last fall, when he was a senior at Santa Margarita High in Rancho Santa Margarita, was against Newport Harbor.

McNown, attempting to lead UCLA to its first national championship since 1954, has stood at center stage all season for the nation's third-ranked team and is expected to deliver another command performance on Saturday.

Palmer isn't even the marquee name in the USC lineup, sharing the spotlight with high-scoring receiver-returner R. Jay Soward, explosive tailback Chad Morton and a big-play defense led by linebacker Chris Claiborne.

"Carson's more of a supporting actor," says Stanford linebacker Donnie Spragan. "Cade is a star."

Spragan and his roommate, Stanford quarterback Todd Husak, share a unique perspective on McNown and Palmer.

Stanford lost to UCLA, 28-24, on Oct. 31 at the Rose Bowl as McNown completed 19 of 31 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions.

A week later, Palmer helped USC to a 34-9 victory at Stanford, completing 19 of 26 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.

"I remember Cade two years ago, and I wasn't very impressed with him," says Husak, a junior from Long Beach and son of Loyola Marymount Athletic Director Bill Husak. "He made a lot of mistakes. . . . But you look at him now and he's doing things his team needs him to do to win. He's making plays and he's getting the ball to the right spot at the right time. . . .

"He's a winning quarterback. I think that's the biggest improvement over the three years that I've seen him play. When it comes down to crunch time is when he's at his best. He'll make the big play when they need it. That's probably his best attribute."

Palmer, for obvious reasons, isn't nearly as developed.

"Carson's sort of in the same boat that Cade was when he was younger," Husak says. "They're keeping the offense pretty simple for him, but what they're asking him to do, he's doing pretty well. And there's a lot to be said for that, coming in as a true freshman and playing as well as he has.

"Any time you're able to come in and play as a true freshman in the Pac-10, especially at quarterback--that's impressive."

UCLA and USC look for different things from their quarterbacks, Husak and Spragan say.

"At UCLA, Cade's pretty much asked to make the big plays," Husak says. "At USC, they're not really asking Palmer to do that. The expectations aren't as high. There's not nearly as much pressure on him, which is good for a young quarterback."

Says Spragan: "USC has so many weapons. I think Palmer probably has more weapons than anybody in the Pac-10, with R. Jay Soward, Billy Miller, Larry Parker and Chad Morton. All he has to do, really, is put the ball where they can make plays. His job is a little easier than Cade's."

But that's not meant as a knock on Palmer's ability.

"He's not as good as Cade McNown is right now," Spragan says, "but I think he'll be better [in the long run]. He has more gifts."

But for now . . .

"They're both great players," says Spragan, "but you're comparing a senior quarterback to a freshman quarterback. And you can tell [by their performance] that Cade McNown is a senior quarterback and that Carson Palmer is a freshman quarterback."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Stanford Quarterback Todd Husak Weighs In:

On Cade McNown

"He's a winning quarterback. I think that's the biggest improvement over the three years that I've seen him play. When it comes down to crunch time is when he's at his best. He'll make the big play when they need it. That's probably his best attribute."

*

On Carson Palmer

"Carson's sort of in the same boat that Cade was when he was younger. They're keeping the offense pretty simple for him, but what they're asking him to do, he's doing pretty well. And there's a lot to be said for that, coming in as a true freshman and playing as well as he has."

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