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Cougar WR River Cracraft: We’ll never know, and yet we do, in considering his career at Washington State

IT’S THE NEWS no one wanted to hear. Fourth-year Cougar senior receiver River Cracraft – who was on pace to finish his Washington State career in the top 10 in Pac-12 history for receptions – has played his final game for Wazzu. And it’s damned hard not to think about the what-ifs.

Cracraft’s heady accomplishments become even more noteworthy when viewed in the proper context: he never played a full season after his true freshman campaign at Wazzu. 

Injuries in his second and third WSU campaigns resulted in the loss of three games each.  He’ll miss the final three games of 2016 too, after tearing his ACL

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One can’t help but imagine what further gridiron magic Cracraft would have presented to Cougar Nation had those nine games, three-quarters of a regular season, not been lost.

Because Cracraft was always an impossible catch waiting to happen.  

A CRIMSON GRABMASTER in every sense of the word, Cracraft finishes his WSU career second all-time at Washington State – and No. 16 in Pac-12 history – with 218 receptions.  Teammate Gabe Marks is tops on both lists, with 295.  And Cracraft and Marks are the only tandem in the 101-year history of the Pac-12 history with 200 catches each.

Cracraft’s excellence on the WSU football field was more the product of a continual, years-long endeavor, an obsession with the game of football, than it was about God-given athletic talent. He made himself into the best. While other kids were busy being kids, Cracraft was on the field working mornings, nights, weekends. Anything to get better. 

Season- and career-ending injuries always feel unfair, but they seem especially cruel for someone who loves the game as much as Cracraft does.  

But before you travel too far down Lament Road, consider how glorious it was for Cougar Nation: CougFans were able to drink in the 41 games he DID play at Washington State (35 starts). 

His hands were remarkable, he made improbable catches look routine. 

His routes, from his first game to his last, were as bracingly crisp as a winter on the Palouse.  

His football IQ, work ethic and drive to win all rank in the elite category.

And Cracraft off the field?  Even better than on.

To be sure, it’s a bittersweet end.  But the highs will always far, far outweigh the lows when it comes to River Cracraft.

https://twitter.com/SWXLindsayJoy/status/797950494572302336
https://twitter.com/jason_loscalzo/status/797909442532503552
https://twitter.com/throwitupto9/status/797898578744266752

IN ADDITION TO HIS 218 GRABS, CRACRAFT FINISHES HIS COUGAR CAREER WITH 20 TDs AND 2,638 RECEIVING YARDS: BOTH No. 6 ALL-TIME IN THE WASHINGTON STATE RECORD BOOK.  IN 10 GAMES IN 2016, HE POSTED 701 YARDS ON 53 RECEPTIONS WITH 5 TDS. INSIDE RECEIVERS IN THE AIR RAID TEND TO HAVE FEWER YARDS-PER-CATCH THAN THE OUTSIDE RECEIVERS -- BUT CRACRAFT's 13.2 YARDS-PER-CATCH LEADS THE 2016 COUGS (20 or more receptions).

USATodaySports/Snook


LIFE AFTER CRACRAFT:
WSU could choose to go a man down at the slot positions (Y and H) with a three-man rotation.  If so, that trio would consist of Robert Lewis, the starting H, along with Kyle Sweet and John Thompson.  Sweet in particular can play both the Y and H, giving inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard some flexibility. 

If the Cougs continue with a 4-man rotation in the slot positions, perhaps the most likely case would see them borrow from the outside receiver corps. It's not an obvious choice but one intriguing option could be Dezmon Patmon, the 6-4 true freshman has played in three games this season. C.J. Dimry is 6-5 and he's not a prototypical Air Raid slot man either. But could some extra work in the slot be on tap for both this practice week? True freshman Renard Bell is redshirting this season (and Bell is thought to be unavailable anyway, though that's not definite because WSU does not release injury information). Meanwhile, Keith Harrington moved to the slot earlier in the year -- and then back to running back.  With Cracraft out, could Harrington be on the move again?  

None of the options are ideal – you don’t just replace a River Cracraft. 

But the Cougs do have choices, there are any number of machinations that could be in the offing headed into a titanic Saturday matchup at Colorado (12:30 pm, Fox).  The Cougs were a 3 ½ point underdog at last check.


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