In what was likely his final game at Death Valley, Tee Higgins had an afternoon to remember on Saturday.
The junior wide receiver tallied four receptions for 64 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on just five targets in third-ranked Clemson’s 52-3 win over Wake Forest.
Higgins, who is eligible to enter the NFL Draft following this season, admitted the possibility that Saturday’s game could be his last in Memorial Stadium crossed his mind during the contest.
“Yeah, obviously that thought went through my head, but you never know,” said Higgins, who is widely projected to be a first-round pick next April. “But just got to go out there, and I just had fun tonight.”
Higgins said there were no discussions of him possibly running down the hill with the senior class, like redshirt junior Isaiah Simmons, who is scheduled to graduate in December and was honored with the seniors prior to Saturday’s game.
“Oh no,” Higgins said. “Zay, he’s classified as a senior because this is his fourth year, and we don’t run juniors down the hill.”
After dropping a couple of passes in Clemson’s previous game against NC State on Nov. 9, including one in the end zone, Higgins responded by having a career day against the Demon Deacons.
The Oak Ridge, Tennessee native opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown catch from Trevor Lawrence less than four minutes into the game, then hauled in touchdown receptions of 14 and 30 yards in a span of 29 seconds near the end of the first half.
The game was Higgins’ first of the season with multiple touchdown receptions, the fourth such performance of his career. His three touchdowns surpassed his career high, set against The Citadel in 2017 and against Florida State and Pittsburgh in 2018.
“I think that was the first time he’s dropped a ball all year was last week,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott said. “So, it was great to see him get an opportunity to go make some big plays, and not just a normal play — those were some really nice catches, having to really go attack the ball in coverage. He’s been playing very, very well.
“Just the way our season has gone, we’re running the ball really well … We’ve got a lot of guys out there. We haven’t really had to force the ball to him a whole lot this year, but he knows that his time is coming, especially as we start getting into this championship phase of our season. So, I thought it was great for him and Trevor to have a big day together.”
Higgins did not take his drops against NC State lightly and worked hard leading up to Saturday to make sure it did not happen again.
“I stayed after practice every day and just caught balls in the jugs machine, and I ran the route I dropped at least five times every day after practice,” he said. “So, that was a big emphasis on today’s game.”
The receiving touchdowns were Higgins’ 20th, 21st and 22nd of his career, passing Mike Williams (21 from 2013-16) for third-most career touchdown receptions in school history.
“No, I didn’t know that, actually,” Higgins said when asked about moving up on Clemson’s all-time touchdown catches list. “This is my first time hearing about it. But I’ve just got to keep going out there playing my game and just keep helping out my team, contribute to a win.”
Higgins notched the eighth three-touchdown receiving performance in school history, following Diondre Overton, who became the seventh to do it when he had a hat trick against Boston College earlier this season.
If Saturday was indeed Higgins’ last at Death Valley, what will he remember about it?
“Just the three touchdowns,” he said with a big smile. “Obviously that’s big. I’m in the record books with Dre, receiving three receiving touchdowns, and it’s just a great feeling.”
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