Hurricane Ike ravaged the Gulf Coast last weekend, forcing the postponement of sporting events throughout the region. Though the area is far from fully recovered, Texas and Rice - two of the college football teams most affected - are ready to resume play.
The seventh-ranked Longhorns look to pick up where they left off before the storm as they go for their 10th straight win over Rice on Saturday at Texas Memorial Stadium.
Ike made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds early Saturday morning, flooding streets, blowing out skyscraper windows and cutting power to millions of people across southeast Texas.
Rice’s campus in Houston was hit hard, but the Owls (2-1) were in Nashville, where they lost to Vanderbilt 38-21. They returned to Houston on Monday evening, and classes and practice resumed Tuesday.
Texas (2-0) was scheduled to host Arkansas further inland in Austin last Saturday, but the game was postponed due to severe weather.
“The decision was made on the side of precaution for safety of all those that are evacuating and on the road and trying to not be a negative for a very, very difficult situation,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “It wasn’t about football, it was about people. It was about their lives and their homes.”
Though recovery from the storm will continue for the foreseeable future, the Longhorns are eager to get back on the field Saturday to continue their strong start. They’ve won their first two games by a combined 94-23.
“We have to just get back to work,” defensive end Brian Orakpo said. “The show must go on. We’ve been going through this hurricane stuff and now we have to flip the script and start focusing on our opponent this week and go from there.”
Quarterback Colt McCoy has been one of the keys to Texas’ early success. The third-year starter struggled to take care of the ball in 2007, when he had 18 interceptions - two fewer than the highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
He’s completed 44 of his 58 attempts for 504 yards, seven TDs and only one pick this year. That interception came in the Longhorns’ last game Sept. 6, when he also had four touchdowns as Texas cruised to a 42-13 win over UTEP.
“He is playing really well and he is showing great leadership,” Brown said. “The interception was not his fault, so really, he’s played without a turnover from his spot, and at the same time, he’s been really competitive.”
McCoy deflects most of the praise for his strong start.
“Give credit to the offensive line, they’ve given me a ton of protection, and the receivers are catching the ball,” he said. “It’s just like (offensive coordinator Greg) Davis says, we’re just playing the game. Just do what they tell you to do, take care of the ball. When you put Ws on the board, good things are going to happen.”
Good things typically happen for Texas when it meets Rice. The Longhorns, who have won nine straight games over the Owls, are 37-1 against them since 1966 to improve to 68-21-1 in the all-time series, which dates to 1914.
McCoy completed 20 of 29 passes for 333 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Longhorns’ 58-14 rout of the Owls in Houston last Sept. 22.
Rice hopes to snap its skid against its former Southwest Conference rival as the Owls try to rebound from last week’s loss to Vanderbilt. After totaling 98 points in winning their first two games and 21 points in the first half last Saturday, the Owls were outscored 17-0 after halftime.
“We had opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage of them,” said quarterback Chase Clement, who was 25-for-39 for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception.