The Punch. The Call. The Ankle. The Game.
They could be remembered as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for Washington State.
The Punch threatened team unity, but a swift and creative response by Coach Mike Price averted a disaster.
The Call became a convenient scapegoat for a meltdown against a rival, and its effect lingers because Price's response was something less than swift and creative.
The Ankle belongs to quarterback Jason Gesser and is severely sprained, jeopardizing the Cougar season. The indomitable senior has gone to great lengths to play -- from Pullman, Wash., to Seattle on a midnight drive for a special brace -- but it is unclear if he can be effective.
The Game will be played Saturday against UCLA, determining whether the seventh-ranked Cougars gain a berth in the Rose Bowl or the Holiday Bowl. The difference is worth about $1.5 million to each Pacific 10 Conference team, since they share in the bowl championship series bounty, and a tidy sum to Price, who because of incentives in the contract he signed in September would net an extra $125,000.
That's not all. The outcome affects the bowl destinations of more than a dozen other teams.
Even though the Cougars literally are practicing in a bubble this week, having moved to their temperature-controlled indoor facility with Pasadena on their minds, they are aware of the far-reaching ramifications.
But the Game is intensely personal to Washington State. A victory would render meaningless the misery associated with the Punch, the Call and the Ankle.
Cougar linebacker Ira Davis believed cornerback Jason David was moving in on his girlfriend, so in the locker room on Oct. 29, Davis cold-cocked David with one punch, fracturing his cheek in three places.
David went from a vocal senior leader who ranked third in the nation in interceptions to fuming in silence from the sidelines. Davis apologized to the team, but the damage was done -- David was expected to miss the rest of the season.
"When [Davis] was talking, I was so mad, I couldn't even really hear what he was saying," safety Erik Coleman told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
No charges were filed, but Price came up with a punishment to fit the crime, suspending Davis for as long as David was out.
That turned out to be only three games, two of them victories. The Cougars survived the prolific Arizona State and Oregon passing attacks without the two starters, but lost to Washington.
David, who has five interceptions, will return to the lineup Saturday. Davis will play too, although he will come off the bench.
"It just feels good to finally be back," David said. "Being with the team again feels good. Having the pads on feels good. It's probably the greatest thing ever."
Credit Price with defusing the situation before it caused dissension or a media circus, an easier task in the remote Pullman Palouse than in, say, Los Angeles.
It wasn't the first Washington State incident kept relatively quiet, either.
Defensive tackle Rien Long, an All-American and Outland Trophy finalist, was one of two players suspended for one game after getting caught drinking on the return flight from Ohio State in September.
In Price's view, there was nothing fair about the way the Apple Cup ended Nov. 23.
Officials ruled that a batted-down pass by Cougar reserve quarterback Matt Kegel was a lateral, rather than a forward pass, making it a game-ending fumble instead of a harmless incompletion.
Washington escaped with a 29-26 triple-overtime victory and enraged Cougar supporters rained plastic bottles on Washington fans who stormed the field in Pullman. Police had to intervene.
"We won't forget this game for a long time," Price said afterward.
Not even on Thanksgiving.
"A 12-inch pass takes us out of the Rose Bowl?" he said on the holiday. "That's not going to happen. I'm not going to allow a man's decision, an inaccurate call, to deter us from our goal of going to the Rose Bowl."
Another week has come and gone. Pac-10 officials reviewed the play and determined the correct call was made. Still, Price can't let it go.
"I hate to see that happen, it wasn't right," he said. "I think the kids are over the hangover from that play. I'll get past it, but I'll never forget it."
Gesser has passed for 2,922 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. He passed for 3,010 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
But the 290 miles he drove Sunday night might be the most important number the senior has racked up.
Fog canceled flights out of Pullman, so Gesser and trainer Bill Drake drove to a prosthetic laboratory in Seattle to have a brace, called an ankle-foot orthosis, cast from a mold of the quarterback's foot.
"There are a lot of devices out there and a lot of tape jobs that we could do, but this is custom to his foot," Drake said. "We are trying to prevent rotation, and this is the best one we can get that fits the foot."