Harper Leads Tigers Past La.-Monroe

CLEMSON – Cullen Harper has never been the people's choice and more times than not, he was an afterthought with the coaches. But through it all, he believed in his abilities and the idea that he was the right person to lead the Clemson football team.

And through his first two games as the starting quarterback, Harper has been right.

One week after leading the Tigers to the victory over a ranked Florida State team, Harper set a school single-game record by tossing five touchdowns in 25th ranked Clemson's 49-26 victory over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Harper put together one of the all-time best performances by a Clemson quarterback by completing 20-of-26 passes for 270 yards and his record-setting five touchdowns, four of which came in the first half.

"It feels great," the redshirt junior said. "There were great play calls and the receivers were there and they made great plays and the offensive line gave me a lot of time to complete them."

It was one of the greatest quarterback performances in school history, and it didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.

"I was joking with him on the sideline saying he looked like he wants to win the Heisman (Trophy) this year," said tailback C.J. Spiller, who was the recipient of the record-setting touchdown pass on the first play of the second half.

"He did a great job for us. We need that with our passing game to help out our rushing game."

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Harper's touchdowns were thrown to five difference receivers, which is something he thinks makes the Tigers (2-0, 1-0 ACC) very difficult to defend.

"I'm not one to favor one guy," he said. "I read the defense as it's supposed to be and if a guy is open, I'm going to throw it to him."

Thanks in large part to Harper, Clemson rolled up 503 yards of total offense and at one point, had the game well in hand at 49-13.

But even though the game was out of hand by the early part of the third quarter, the Tigers continued to throw the ball. And there were two reasons for it.

First, Louisiana-Monroe (0-2) kept loading the box with eight and nine players to try and stop the run.

"They kind of forced us to throw the ball a lot," Harper said. "They weren't covering our receivers down and they were putting everybody in the box. … If they put eight guys in the box, we've got to be able to throw it and we did a little bit of that today."

Second of all, head coach Tommy Bowden wants to make sure what happened last year doesn't happen this year, too.

Bowden partly blamed last year's passing woes on lack of attempts passing because every time Clemson got up big en route to blowouts early in the year, the Tigers would just run it.

He said earlier in the week that even if the Tigers got up big that they'd keep passing.

"I just felt like that what we needed to do," Bowden said. "I felt like I made a mistake last year."

But Bowden tempered his enthusiasm for Harper and the rest of the offense by saying that his team wasn't really tested.

"I think we're going to play some more talented teams in the secondary and I think that's going to be the true challenge," he said. "Some of those guys we could just run right past them. I think when some of our opponents with a little bit better personnel try it, that's going to be the true test."

Even so, this was still Harper's day. No matter what, he'll always be in the record books and maybe, just maybe, fans will start to embrace and accept him.

"I just went out there and played how I was capable of playing," he said. "Hopefully that made some people happy."

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