Harper Presses On

CLEMSON - Senior quarterback Cullen Harper eyes a breakout performance Thursday night at Wake.

Five games into the 2008 season and it seems as though Clemson and its starting quarterback are still trying to find an identity.

For the record, Clemson currently ranks second in the ACC in passing offense (220/game), fourth in scoring offense (30.6/game), third in total offense (385/game) and fifth in rushing offense (165/game).

Not bad when you look at it from a statisical perspective, but still, it appears crystal clear the Tigers aren't truly clicking on all cylinders.

And while we saw improved play against Maryland 11 days ago, it still wasn't enough to lift the Tigers to the win as ill-timed mistakes and penalties proved to be too much to overcome.

CUTigers.com sat down with senior signal caller Cullen Harper once again this week to get a preview of what to expect Thursday night as well as get his reaction of his team's performance during the off-week:

Let's start Cullen with what you expect to see defensively Thursday night against Wake Forest. Is it the same sort of scheme they've run in years past?
Harper: It's very similar to what they did last year. They aren't a heavy blitz team. They don't do a lot of different things but they are very fundamentally sound in what they do. A lot of cover three and cover four. They'll bring some poker blitzes from different parts of the field on different plays. Everything they do is fundamentally sound. They are well-coached and we have to limit our mistakes and turnovers and stuff like that and attack like we did last year.

Last season Cullen Harper completed 27-of-35 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Clemson's 44-10 win over Wake Forest. He also rushed for 13 yards and another score.
What is the mood like in the locker room right now? Does anything need to be changed from what you've seen as the starting quarterback?
Harper: Honestly I feel like the team was a lot more let down after the Alabama loss. The loss to Maryland was disappointing but we know we have to put it behind us and move on. Maryland losing to Virginia ... so here we are right back in the thick of things, controlling our own destiny. Obviously we need a win against Wake. We just have to put Maryland behind us and move on and realize that it's a long football season and we aren't even halfway through yet.

Talking to Michael Palmer and Thomas Austin this week, it seems like they feel enough positive steps were taken against Maryland that perhaps this team did turn the corner in that game but just got somewhat unlucky in the end with the stupid mistakes. Is that how you view what happened 11 days ago? Did the offensive line and defensive line improve that much?
Harper: I think that's very well-stated comment. I felt like we got better, just like we have week in and week out. We went out there and moved the ball well and executed well, but the penalties really killed us in the second half. We had third down conversions called back. We had late penalties. We had holding calls. Stuff like that makes it hard to win. But as far as playing, we got better; we just have to limit our mistakes and penalties.

You've taken some criticism from the fans, as has coach Bowden ... that's what fans do. But what do you feel like you need to improve on Thursday against Wake Forest to get this offense going?
Harper: Well, I think, I've got to continue to play loose and relaxed and not worry about the past and not worry about what people are saying. Because I feel like I've played good up to this point. We've had some unlucky breaks and some tipped balls land in the other team's hands and stuff like that. All I can do is execute the play that is called. It's not up to me to call the plays and stuff like that. All I can do is go out there and execute the play that is called. If I can continue to do that, and if we can catch some breaks, we'll be fine.

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