CHARLOTTE — Tee Higgins lay sprawled in the end zone, football in hand, his skyward eyes capturing a moment he didn’t want to end.
The Clemson wide receiver figured he’d be pulled from the ACC Championship game Saturday soon after his second touchdown, with the Tigers’ lead ballooning in Charlotte, so he stayed on the ground for a couple extra beats, soaking in the glory.
“I enjoyed that one the most,” said Higgins, who was named the game’s MVP.
The junior scored once more before the final whistle sounded on the Tigers’ 62-17 thumping of Virginia at Bank of America Stadium. His third touchdown, on an 11-yard throw from quarterback Trevor Lawrence midway through the third quarter, pushed him into a three-way tie with DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for most receiving touchdowns in program history (27).
Offensive lineman John Simpson summed up Higgins’ performance succinctly: “That dude’s a freak of nature.”
That was most evident early in the second quarter, when Lawrence tossed a ball toward the right sideline. Higgins, in single coverage, caught the pass as he fell out-of-bounds, grazing his left foot in-bounds and prompting dropped jaws.
It was ruled a catch, and a replay review confirmed as much.
“Coach [Dabo] Swinney, he says, ‘You touch it, you catch it,'” Higgins said. “I touched it so I had to catch it.”
Higgins, who finished with nine catches for 182 yards, became the first player in program history to catch multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games.
The junior has one year of college eligibility remaining but has been projected as a first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. First, he hopes to help Clemson to a second straight national championship.
“This part of the season, championship phase, [is] when we’re playing our best,” Lawrence said. “That just shows, especially with Tee, how he played tonight.”