AUSTIN (AP) -When Hurricane Ike was barreling into the Texas coast and Houston, the Rice Owls were hundreds of miles north playing a football game in Tennessee.
They came home to the country's fourth-largest city to find flooded streets, damaged homes and more than 2 million people without power. Teammates crashed with anybody who still had electricity, coaches moved families into their offices and players tried to contact with their loved ones.
Still on the schedule was Saturday's game at No. 7 Texas (2-0).
As whipped as his team might be right now, Rice coach David Bailiff calls the game a welcome distraction.
``Football is the greatest escape there is right now. Why wouldn't you play?'' Bailiff told The Associated Press. ``Sports does prepare you for life. It prepares you to overcome obstacles, it teaches you there are going to be hardships in life that you have to overcome, when you have to take care of your family.''
ayed at Vanderbilt last Saturday, losing 38-21 as Houston and coastal communities were just starting to assess the damage of the Category 2 hurricane that punched the area with powerful winds and a destructive storm surge. The death toll in Texas had inched up to 23 by midday Friday.
Rice couldn't fly back to Houston until Monday, leaving players trying to reach family members by phone to find out what happened.
They came home to a city racked by power outages, road closures and long lines for gasoline, food, water and ice. A beacon for the Rice players was the school campus, which maintained power and was back open for classes by Tuesday.
``We're the lucky ones. We have power,'' Bailiff said. ``Your heart goes out to the people standing in the FEMA lines.''
About 150 miles to the west, Texas coach Mack Brown reached out to offer whatever he could, whether it was to help Rice players find housing or practice space in Austin. It wasn't needed, but it sure was appreciated, Bailiff said.
``Football is still a gentleman's sport,'' Bailiff said.
Brown has plenty of experience with hurricanes after coaching at Tulane in New Orleans and at North Carolina earlier in his career. About two dozen of his own players are from Houston and Ike-damaged areas in southeast Texas. The storm forced the Longhorns to postpone their game with Arkansas until Sept. 27.
e that the families that don't have the same support are taken care of as well. It's a tough time,'' Brown said. ``This is a big, life-changing experience ... a lot of world will (quickly) move on. Those people won't.''
Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said he was worried about teammates and friends from the area the night the storm rolled in.
``I prayed for those guys on Saturday night when I laid down, because I know their families are going through a lot right now,'' said Muckelroy, who is from Hallsville in East Texas.
Bailiff tries to find the lighter side to keep the stress down. He had his wife and 11-year-old twins sleeping at his office until a friend from his previous coaching job at Texas State sent a couple of generators to power his house.
``They think they're camping out,'' Bailiff said of his children. ``It's amazing how easy it is to get them to go to sleep when it gets dark.''
Given everything that has happened in the last week - and that Texas has won 37 of the last 38 meetings with Rice - oddsmakers have made the Owls as 30-point underdogs. Texas won 58-14 last season.
If the Owls have a chance, it will come from quarterback Chase Clement and wide receiver Jarett Dillard. The fifth-year seniors have connected for 37 touchdowns, two shy of the NCAA record between a quarterback and receiver. Dillard is also the active NCAA career leader in receptions (227), receiving yards (3,088) and touchdown catches (45).
``I think those guys have been there 13 years,'' Brown said.

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