COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tee Higgins has shined the past two Saturdays, and his confidence continues to rise.
A week after his breakout game against The Citadel, the freshman wideout recorded a game-high 84 yards receiving and made a couple of big catches for third-ranked Clemson in its 34-10 win over No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“That’s two weeks in a row that Tee Higgins came off the bench and made some big plays at critical times,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “So it’s great to see that and really see our depth starting to take over.”
Higgins, a former five-star recruit, scored his first two career touchdowns and racked up 178 yards receiving in the Tigers’ blowout of The Citadel on Nov. 18.
On Saturday against stiffer competition, Higgins again showed up with timely catches that helped the Tigers extend drives and build a big lead against the Gamecocks in the second quarter.
“Last week got my feet wet,” Higgins said. “I have way more confidence now in what I can do.”
Two of Higgins’ three catches in the game came on third down during eventual scoring drives.
Higgins had a 24-yard reception on third-and-10 from Clemson’s 47-yard line that helped set up the Tigers’ first offensive touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run by Tavien Feaster in the second quarter.
Later in the period, a 40-yard pass from Kelly Bryant to Higgins down the sideline moved Clemson inside South Carolina’s 10-yard line. Three plays later, Bryant connected with Hunter Renfrow in the end zone to give the Tigers a 20-0 lead before halftime.
Higgins also notched a 20-yard reception in the second quarter.
“They called my number,” Higgins said. “I was just hoping I could go out there and make a play, and I did, so it felt real good.”
Scott was particularly impressed by the veteran-like savvy Higgins showed on his 24-yard catch that led to Feaster’s touchdown.
“What he did on that one third down where he caught the ball over the middle, that was a junior, senior type route decision,” Scott said. “That’s not something that a typical freshman does. He had to make a really difficult adjustment to what they were doing defensively, so that was great.”
The victory marked Clemson’s fourth straight over South Carolina and kept the Tigers in line to make their third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.
Scott has seen Higgins get better and hopes to see more of the same as Clemson moves forward in the “championship phase” of the season.
“He’s been a guy that’s been coming on,” Scott said. “He’s been improving. That was one thing we’ve been a little disappointed in the middle part of the year… We put him in, and sometimes the coverages don’t match up with the plays that you call and he’s not able to get the ball.
“So, I think he’s playing more confident. I do think last week was definitely a confidence builder for him. But he’s got a lot of talent.”
Overall, Higgins has 17 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns this season.
The Tigers will try to win their third straight ACC title when they take on Miami in the conference championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday in Charlotte.