In a season thus far filled with the former, the news of star Cougar running back David Minnich's knee surgery today has many Cougfans feeling pangs of the latter.
Indeed, it's darn near impossible to keep a chin up with the news that Minnich, currently the Pac-10s' number two rusher with 589 yards over five games, would be out two to four weeks following the repair of torn cartilage in his right knee.
Adding insult to injury, the former Marine is coming off his best-ever effort as a Coug, having steamrolled a pond full of Beavers for 195 yards, catching a touchdown pass, and throwing a touchdown pass to lead Wazzu over Oregon State last Saturday.
Filling his marine boots is impossible, but maintaining the flow of this year's high-octane offense is not. But it won't be easy.
Enter freshman running back Allen Thompson.
Was being thrust into the starting role of a 5-0 squad squarely in the hunt for not just a bowl berth, but also the conference title, his destiny? Hard to say, but one thing is certain: this is the most important replacement of an injured athlete at WSU since 1983, when a young, homesick basketball player named Ricky Brown stepped in –and up—for downed superstar Guy Williams. And you know what? The men's basketball team didn't miss a beat on their way to the NCAAs.
Thankfully, when Thompson—the Sweetwater High product from National City, California—touches the swine for the first time against Stanford on Saturday, it won't be his debut. In fact, it will be the thirtieth time we've seen him run the ball this year. Thanks in large part to big Cougar leads, he's seen more action than anyone had anticipated last summer, running for 118 yards, averaging 4 per carry, and scoring once.
In a way, Thompson—and his running mates John Tippins, Jimmy Wilson, and Lavell Anderson—have a simple task: find the holes, run north-south, and hold onto the ball.
It's the rest of the Cougar team that will have the most asked of them, they are the ones who must somehow turn up the volume another notch, and they are the ones who must fill the void left by Minnich.
As important as his physical talents are to this 2001 edition of Cougar football, it's his grit, leadership, and heart that they will miss most. Somehow compensating for those intangibles against the Cardinal will go a long way in determining if this is a WSU team marching toward fortune, or one being pulled down by doom.
Because great teams aren't steered by destiny, they steer destiny.