GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Houston Ala forced UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer to fumble last night.
Good quarterbacks rise to the occasion when the game is on the line, so it's not unusual when a freshman hasn't learned the skills to get the job done at crunch time.
Even though UTEP frosh Jordan Palmer had a so-so game in last night's 31-15 loss to Hawaii, he didn't walk into Aloha Stadium with a so-so name. He carried with him the notoriety of being the younger brother of Carson Palmer, who rode his arm at USC to the Heisman Trophy and to the top pick in April's NFL Draft.
But when it was time to deliver last night against Hawaii, the 6-foot-5 Jordan Palmer made a rookie mistake. The 27-point underdog Miners trailed by a respectable 15-6 score at the half and grabbed some early third-quarter momentum.
After a clutch interception by the Miners' Adrian Ward, Palmer and tailback Howard Jackson brought UTEP deep into Hawaii territory. But on first down from the 21, Palmer dropped back with plenty of protection and threw it right into the clutches of the enemy.
The problem, which Palmer failed to recognize, was that no UTEP receivers were open. Instead of throwing it away or tucking his head and running, Palmer overthrew tight end Casey Mauch with at least three zone defenders in the vicinity and the ball went directly into the arms of Hawaii's David Gilmore.
"That was a big turning point on first and 10," Miners coach Gary Nord said. "He misread it and tried to force it in there, but nobody felt worse than he did."
A touchdown in that situation would have brought the Miners within a field goal. Instead, Hawaii went on to score 10 straight points for a commanding 25-6 lead.
Later in the third, Palmer directed his offense into Warriors territory, but couldn't get the desired result and the Miners settled for a field goal of 45 yards by Keith Robinson that made it 25-9.
"It was frustrating because the defense kept us in the game all night and our line played well all night," Palmer said. "In the red zone, we just weren't clicking, and we've got to capitalize in those situations."
Early in the fourth, Palmer guided the Miners tantalizingly close to a touchdown, but once again couldn't find the end zone. Gilmore and Leonard Peters nearly picked off two of Palmer's passes and Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. dropped another pass with tight coverage in the corner of the end zone. Once again, the Miners brought out Robinson, but he hit the upright for the second time.
Finally, Palmer found what he was looking for with 6:05 left, capping a 78-yard drive by going over the top for a 1-yard score to the cut the deficit to 25-15. But even that wasn't easy. He dropped the ball in mid-air and then fell on it a yard into the end zone.
"I've got to learn to hang on to the ball," he said. "I didn't realize the whistle hadn't blown, so I was fortunate to be able to get it back."
Palmer's all-time hero is his brother, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.
"We're real close like any other brothers are," he said. "And he's been a great role model for me. He's not any more or less special because he won the Heisman."
Jordan has been able to catch a few of Carson's games on TV and went to Pittsburgh to see the Bengals play the Steelers, a game Pittsburgh won 17-10.