HOUSTON -- In their first game in the city since Hurricane Harvey hit, Houston and Rice showed solidarity before their rivalry game kicked off Saturday night.
A moment of silence in memory of victims of Harvey was observed before the game. Texas officials said recently that at least 82 lives were lost as a result of Harvey, which impacted Houston and other areas along the Texas coastline, including Corpus Christi and Port Arthur.
The teams also joined for a team-wide pregame handshake. Every player from the Owls and Cougars met at the middle of the field to shake hands in a show of unity before kickoff.
"It's a symbolic gesture," Houston coach Major Applewhite said afterward. "I think what our players have done and what our staffs and our universities have done have been a lot more impressive than a handshake. But I think that's just a symbol of what our two universities have done the last couple weeks in terms of trying to do their part. There's a lot of people doing a lot besides just Rice and Houston. Everybody needs to be acknowledged, not just these football teams. I think it was just a great gesture, a symbol of the universities coming together and our city and how much we love it."
At halftime, the schools' bands also displayed unity. The Spirit of Houston and the Rice Marching Owl Band engaged in a joint performance of "Amazing Grace" to recognize Harvey victims.
The two schools, which are separated by only seven miles and are the two closest FBS programs nationally, met in their crosstown rivalry for the first time since 2013. Houston won 38-3 Saturday night behind a 309-yard passing effort from quarterback Kyle Allen, who completed all but two of his 33 pass attempts.
The Cougars (2-0) also paid tribute to their city with their uniforms, wearing "HOUSTON" on their nameplates instead of having the players' names on their backs.
"We just wanted to give back to Houston, for having our backs the whole time, and we had their backs the whole time," said receiver Linell Bonner, a Houston native who caught 10 passes for 132 yards on Saturday. "In moments of devastation, sometimes you need distraction from the devastation. We were that tonight, for Houston, hopefully."
Added Applewhite: "This meant a lot to them to play for their city. It wasn't just something that coaches threw on the back of their jersey. They took a lot of pride in this."