The game between Texas and Iowa State on Oct. 3, 1998, didn’t hold much significance on the national stage.
Neither the Longhorns nor the Cyclones were ranked in the top 25 of the polls. Neither had a shot at making it to a major bowl.
What did happen that Saturday in Austin, however, was a performance that still lives on in the Heisman record books.
This week in Heisman history, Ricky Williams rushed for more yards in a single-game than any other Heisman winner. The 5-10, 230-pounder from San Diego rumbled his way to 350 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries as the Longhorns defeated the Cyclones, 54-33, at Royal Stadium.
But it wasn’t just about the yards that day. The previous Sunday saw the passing of 1948 Heisman winner Doak Walker, whom Williams got to know after winning the Doak Walker Award the previous season. Before the game against Iowa State, Williams placed a No. 37 decal on his helmet to honor his fallen friend and dedicated the rest of the season to his memory.
The 350 yards rushing against Iowa State was a Texas record and matched (at the time) the 11th-best rushing day in NCAA history with 350 yards. Williams scored on runs of 12, 68, 23, six and one yard. The game also marked Williams’ initial assault on the NCAA record book. The future Heisman Trophy winner, who also caught two passes for 17 yards, set or tied six NCAA records on the day.
Williams’ 1-yard TD run with 6:37 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Cyclones was his 65th career TD run and 66th career TD overall, pushing him ahead of Anthony Thompson as the NCAA’s all-time leader in rushing TDs and total TDs. He also set NCAA records for scoring among non-kickers and rushing yards in consecutive games (668, 318 vs. Rice; 350 vs. Iowa State) and tied the NCAA marks for fastest to 1,000 rushing yards in a season (five games) and TDs in consecutive games (11).
Williams would go on to rush for 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns that season while setting the NCAA record for career rushing yards with 6,279 (since broken). He easily beat out Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop for the Heisman before being selected in the first round of the 1999 NFL draft by New Orleans.