Southern Cal freshman quarterback Carson Palmer has had difficulty reading play signals from the sideline—so much so that for Palmer's first start, last Saturday, coach Paul Hackett had the Trojans' most complex plays printed on Palmer's wristband. Palmer completed 18 of 31 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown in USC's 33-10 rout of Washington, but before a 57-yard TD pass to Billy Miller in the first quarter, Palmer again misread the sideline signal. He recounts the fortunate mistake.
I was just starting to get into the flow of the game and was feeling good about getting the signals right We run the West Coast offense, which is complex, and we have signals for everything. I looked at quarterbacks coach Ken O'Brien and thought I saw the signal for Billy to run a deep post. I guess I turned around too soon, because he was supposed to run a deep out. I missed the last part of the signal.
I thought Ken had signaled for a play called Cowboy: If the safety stayed back, I was supposed to look off Billy and and hit another guy over the middle, but if the safety bit and came in, I would go to Billy on the post route. The safety came in, and Billy was wide-open, so I got it to him, and he went in for the touchdown. When I got to the sideline, Coach O'Brien said, "Nice call." I didn't know what he was talking about until he told me I had gotten the play wrong.
We only used the wristband four or five times in the game. There's a ton of stuff you have to know in Coach Hackett's offense, and it's taken awhile for me to get used to it. Now I think I'm getting the hang of it.