FIU, FAU played their games - and now wait on Hurricane Irma
MIAMI (AP) Florida International linebacker Anthony Wint took the field unsure where his mother was. Somewhere between Miami and Georgia was his guess, because she was evacuating from the family's home in an effort to get as far away from powerful Hurricane Irma as Florida's jam-packed roadways would allow.
For three hours Friday night, he managed to block out the distraction.
The result? Wint led FIU in tackles, and the Panthers held off Alcorn State for their first win of the season.
''All our coaches said what we had to do was just keep it simple,'' Wint said Saturday from FIU's temporary home in Birmingham, Alabama, where about 200 athletes from eight of the school's teams are seeking shelter from the storm. ''We just had to lock down for three hours. Win the game, then focus on everything else.''
Wint's family is fine. He doesn't know when his mother is going home - and for that matter, he doesn't know when he's going home. FIU is staying in Birmingham until everything back in Miami returns to some sort of normal, and that could take several days even though the worst of Irma's wind and rain missed South Florida and instead headed toward the Florida Keys and the western side of the state.
Irma also has temporarily displaced Florida Atlantic. The Owls lost 31-14 at No. 9 Wisconsin on Saturday, and Lane Kiffin's club won't return to its Boca Raton campus until Sunday at the earliest. Airports in South Florida were closed because of the storm, and forecasters warned that Sunday won't be an easy day, either.
''I'd be lying if I said there weren't any distractions,'' said FAU quarterback Daniel Parr, a South Floridian. ''We're concerned about our families and whether they're going to be safe or not. We had to come here and it was our responsibility to focus on the game and play well. I think we did that for the most part.''
FAU athletic director Patrick Chun said returning Monday is a possibility, and thanked Wisconsin for offering to host the Owls for as long as they need. And Kiffin lauded his players' effort, even though he said playing the game was less than ideal.
''At one point I thought we weren't coming,'' Kiffin said. ''Our players didn't want to come because there's a lot of players not wanting to leave their families. You've got kids coming into the office saying, `Coach I know it's a football game but I'm really the only one to take care of my grandma. We don't know what's coming.' But there was a decision made to come play so with all of those distractions I thought the guys stayed together in a difficult situation.''
FIU and FAU took more players than they usually would for a road game, because players needed a safe place to be in the storm. Some FIU players didn't make the trip, excused to help take care of their families who were in the storm's path. And a number of FIU students left their dorms Saturday, headed to shelters in the Miami area.
''There were distractions,'' FIU coach Butch Davis said. ''But I really truly believe once we got to Birmingham, we realized the only thing we had any control over was how we would play in the game. The kids were excellent at compartmentalizing.''
The travel issues for FIU and FAU added to a chaotic few days for teams in Florida. There was no college football played in the Sunshine State on Saturday, and next weekend's slate of games - including the annual Miami-Florida State clash - also may be jeopardized. Florida State said its campus will be closed through Friday because of Irma.
The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't play Sunday; the Dolphins are already in California to get ready for a Sept. 17 game with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Jacksonville Jaguars will play at Hurricane Harvey-hit Houston on Sunday, and aren't planning to leave for home before Monday. The Florida Panthers have a contingent of players and staff riding out the storm in Boston. Dozens of high school and college games were called off.
And the Tampa Bay Rays aren't going home after their weekend series in Boston ends Sunday; they're off to New York, where they'll be the home team against the Yankees - playing at Citi Field, the New York Mets' ballpark.
Players from the Red Sox, Rays, Panthers and Boston Bruins will help run a collection for Irma relief at Fenway Park before and during the Red Sox-Rays game on Sunday.
''It's going to be very eerie on Sunday when, if it's projected to hit at that point, that we're in the middle of playing a ballgame,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ''I'm not sure how people will deal with it. We'll find a way to deal with it, but I think a lot of our thoughts will be back at home with our community.''
AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas in Madison, Wisconsin, and Associated Press Writer Gethin Coolbaugh in Boston contributed to this report.
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