Note: This is the fifth installment of a weekly feature, except for UNLV’s two bye weeks, that will look at a notable Rebels game at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV moves to Allegiant Stadium next year.
Ickey Woods needed 184 yards.
He gained 186.
That big final push in the 1987 season finale on Nov. 28 against Northern Illinois made Woods the nation’s leading rusher with 1,658 yards, surpassing Pittsburgh’s Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.
“I knew when it happened, but my head was still into winning the game,” Woods told the Review-Journal the day after the 34-31 loss that ended the Rebels’ season at 5-6.
Woods’ output that season is the second-highest in UNLV history. Only Mike Thomas’ 1,741 yards in 1973 tops it.
Not that Woods didn’t make a serious run at the record. He put together three consecutive 200-yard games leading up to the Northern Illinois game. Woods averaged 214.7 yards per game that November.
Like Thomas, Woods went on to have success in the NFL. He was selected in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988 at No. 31 overall, still the highest a Rebel has been drafted.
Wood rushed for 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns that year, was named NFL Rookie of the Year and popularized the Ickey Shuffle sideline dance. He also led the Bengals to the Super Bowl, where they lost 20-16 to the San Francisco 49ers.