Opposing defenses know the ball is coming his way, and try as they might, it has been a tough time keeping it out of Rashard Higgins’ hands.
Last season, the Colorado State wide receiver snuck up on some foes on his way to becoming a Biletnikoff Award finalist, but as a junior, the spotlight is bright. That’s made him work harder to get open, and he’s stepped up to the challenge.
“They’ll double-team him, shade the safety toward him, you name it,” sophomore quarterback Nick Stevens said. “... But they can’t do it the whole game. When we get those chances, we take it and he’s always ready.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Higgins had a bit of a laugh when asked about how defenses are now adjusting to him, when perhaps they didn’t as much even last season.
“That’s not for me to worry about. I’m just going to go on and do what I do,” he said.
Higgins has 30 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns in four games this season. He has posted three straight 100-yard games since missing Sept. 12’s loss to Minnesota with an injury.
Last season, he hauled in 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns, the latter two both school records.
“He’s a pro. He’s a good receiver, he runs good routes, he’s playing well right now, also. We’ll have a challenge,” Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said.
Even though he is working with a new quarterback in Stevens with Garrett Grayson now on the New Orleans Saints’ roster, Higgins has developed a quick rapport.
“We stay after practice a few times a week, focus on some key routes we’ll use in the game,” Stevens said. “We’re building confidence with each other. Of course I’d like for him to get it even more, but it’s allowed us to spread the ball around.”
Five other Rams have at least eight catches and 104 yards this season.
While it has enabled Stevens to find other targets a little more open, opponents have also focused on not letting Colorado State and Higgins get them deep or allow him to turn short passes into long gains. Higgins’ longest reception this season has been 38 yards. His 17 touchdowns alone last season averaged 35 yards.
“(Last Saturday), I saw Utah State had a man over the top, a deep safety on some of the plays,” Higgins said. “Most of the plays they didn’t, I got the ball.”
“In my mind, the only person that can stop Rashard is Rashard. He’ll have some big ones,” Colorado State senior safety Kevin Pierre-Louis said.
Higgins no doubt is eager to test himself against a top-notch secondary like Boise State’s. He had 11 catches for 143 yards against the Broncos last season, though 87 of those yards came after the Rams trailed 30-10.
“We all remember him from last year. ... We need to know where he’s at at all times,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Somebody’s going to be one-on-one with him; they’ve got to compete. I feel like we’ve got guys that can compete with him.”
Even though his accolades precede him, one big difference this season is the difference he’s making without the ball in his hands.
“I think the biggest thing is that he’s truly a team guy,” Stevens said. “Sometimes he’s a decoy, and he understands it. He runs just as hard on those plays as the ones that are coming to him.”