On the Record: Cullen Harper

CLEMSON - CUTigers.com sits for a one-on-one interview with QB Cullen Harper to talk about Saturday's game against Georgia Tech.

Through four games this season, QB Cullen Harper has completed 75-of-108 passes (69%) for 964 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Last Saturday against N.C. State he passed another important test with a strong performance in his first road game. This weekend, the Tigers travel to Georgia Tech for another important conference game against the Yellow Jackets.

"Georgia Tech will be better than N.C. State defensively," head coach Tommy Bowden said earlier this week. "In fact Georgia Tech is ranked higher in every defensive category than we are. Every week he's (Harper) passing the tests, but the meat of our schedule is coming up."

CUTigers.com sat down with Harper to talk about Saturday's game and more in another edition of On the Record:

Obviously Cullen it was another big performance for you last week at N.C. State. First off, talk about that performance and what it meant to you to get that first win on the road.
Harper: Well we came out and really executed at a high level. Coach Spence called a great game plan. I was extremely proud of our how guys came out and played. It was good to get back into ACC play. Obviously we were excited about all aspects of that game. How we ran the ball. How our defense played and gave us the ball. I think we had the football for 95 plays or something. So it was a good win for us and now we are just getting ready for Georgia Tech.

You guys had 608 yards of total offense on the road last week against N.C. State. Did you find it difficult at all to move the football? No offense to N.C. State of course.
Harper: Right. They were a good team but Coach Spence called a great game plan and we were able to run the ball so well- especially at the end of the game. Overall it was just a case of our guys executing.

We've heard a lot about Georgia Tech's blitzing style of defense this week. How do you try take advantage of that considering they are so aggressive?
Harper: If they are going to bring a lot of pressure you have beat them with your receivers and by making good throws. We'll practice a lot this week in getting guys picked up with the O-line and getting our running backs familiar with what they like to do. Hopefully we can get prepared for that as best as we can and go out there and make plays.

"All of my focus right now is on Georgia Tech just like last week it was on N.C. State. I feel like that's what you have to do. If you get caught looking ahead or looking back that's where you can stumble and fall."
Is the kind of game where you have to max protect more or do you look more towards the quick strike to try and offset their blitzing?
Harper: It's a combination of both. You can't sit back there all day obviously. You have to be able to make quick throws. At the same time, when you have to make deep throws you've got to make sure you have the time to do it. You have to have protection.

You've been great about getting the football to all of your receivers this year, but I sensed last week there may be a developing chemistry with you and Aaron Kelly. It seemed like you would throw to him, high, even in double coverage and he would come down with the football. Am I right?
Harper: Well a little bit. When we both signed here we started working together and we've been pretty good friends throughout our entire career here. Aaron, I really feel like if I throw it up and he's able to get his hands on it he's going to come down with the ball. I have an extreme amount of confidence in him and the other receivers we have too.

You've said this week that this game is especially important because you are returning close to where you grew up and went to high school. Can you talk about that?
Harper: I'm going to have a lot of friends there, so you definitely want to go out and be on top of your game and play good. Georgia Tech is going to be a great opportunity for us to continue towards our goal of an ACC Championship. We just have to take it one game at a time and really prepare for Georgia Tech.

After getting off to a 4-0 start, and with the fans and everybody getting more excited, are you having to fight off the feeling of looking ahead this season?
Harper: Not really. I've always been the type to take it one game at a time. All of my focus right now is on Georgia Tech just like last week it was on N.C. State. I feel like that's what you have to do. If you get caught looking ahead or looking back that's where you can stumble and fall.

Is that what happened last year?
Harper: It could have been. Last year when we got beat by Virginia Tech it sent us in a downward spiral. I think you have to put things in the past whether good or bad behind you and focus on the current week.

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