LSU's Harris hears his critics, says he's driven by them

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU quarterback Brandon Harris makes it clear that he reads and watches the news, and knows just about everything being said about him.

He doesn't see the need to be one of those players who contends - honestly or not - that he pays no attention to the media.

''Apparently, people think I can't throw,'' Harris said after passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns against in a victory over Florida last weekend that boosted the unbeaten Tigers (6-0) to fifth in the national rankings.

''It's nothing but motivation to me,'' Harris continued, adding that he sometimes makes a point before games of reminding his receivers what certain analysts have said about LSU's lack of a passing game. ''I play with a chip on my shoulder every single week.

''This team knows how talented we are passing the ball and everybody knows what I can do throwing the football,'' Harris continued. ''It really hurts when people say that all we have is a running game and this and that. That's so much motivation. For those that keep saying that, keep doubting me. I love it.''

Harris, a sophomore from Bossier City, Louisiana, won the starting job this summer and has, in the words of coach Les Miles, done ''exactly'' what LSU needed. For the most part, that has been managing an offense featuring running back Leonard Fournette and producing 325.5 yards rushing per game as a team.

In three of LSU's first four games, Harris passed for fewer than 100 yards. A game against heavy underdog Eastern Michigan may have been the low point, when Harris was victimized by a couple drops in or near the end zone and finished 4 of 15 for 80 yards.

But in each of LSU's recent victories over South Carolina and Florida, Harris eclipsed the 200-yard mark to raise his season average to 135.3 yards passing per game. This week, LSU hosts Western Kentucky, whose quarterback, Brad Doughty, averages 378.7 yards passing.

''You don't play football at risk of injury without playing with a little passion and caring about how you're received,'' Miles said this week when asked about Harris' inclination to engage his critics publicly. ''But he needs not to worry about that at all.

''The opinions that matter will all come from ... that big building that we practice in,'' Miles continued. ''Others don't know. ... So he needs to just do the things that he's been doing and not try to exceed the play call.''

Harris appeared to exceed one play call shortly before the first half last week, but it worked out.

After being flushed from the pocket, Harris slipped a tackle while rolling right and launched a deep pass that Malachi Dupre hauled in for a 50-yard touchdown.

''He had a few guys he could have thrown the ball to,'' Dupre said after reviewing film of the third-down play. ''He was smart and realized that at the worst-case scenario, it could have been an interception, but it would have just been like a punt that they would have had to do anyway. So Brandon's just becoming a great quarterback and a leader.''

Dupre said there have been times when he wanted to tell Harris to ignore the critics, but the receiver said he has also come to appreciate Harris' ability to handle criticism and make it work for him.

''He likes to step up to challenges and I feel like he keeps hearing a lot of noise outside of the team - people talking about how he can't throw the ball - just because we weren't throwing the ball as much the first couple games of the season and we didn't have that much success throwing the ball in the first couple games,'' Dupre said. ''I think that bothered him a lot and it just drives him more and more.

''I see how hard he works. He's only getting better,'' Dupre added. ''He made some really beautiful throws this weekend and I think he just wants to keep proving people wrong.''

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AP College Football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/

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