After all, the opposing quarterback was strikingly similar to one he saw long ago -- a fourth-year junior fleet of foot, pinpoint of arm. And the running back looked strangely similar, too --- a compact bruiser.
Shoot, even Jim Walden was up in the press box calling the color.
But back then, Walden was doing TV, not radio, and only because his Iowa State Cyclones had a bye that week.
Back then, John Mackovic was head coach at Illinois. And after Washington State's one-back attack -- led by Timm Rosenbach and Steve Broussard -- dismantled his favored Fighting Illini 44-7 in Champaign, who'd have guessed that he'd go on to make millions in Austin before turning pundit at ESPN?
Indeed, who'd have guessed that the same Washington State one-back --- deployed 13 years later by Mike Price rather than Dennis Erickson --- would end Mac's undefeated start in Tucson with a similar thrashing?
Cougars 48, Wildcats 21.
Who'd have thunk it?
Certainly not Price. "I didn't expect it," he said frankly.
Certainly not Mackovic. Had he foreshadowed that September 3, 1988 would be replayed in Tucson this year, with a 49-yard field goal and PAT by Drew Dunning added on, he'd no doubt have told Jim Livengood to get lost when he came calling last November.
Not since 1992, when Aaron Price split the uprights with the winning field goal late in the fourth quarter, have the Cougars tasted victory over Arizona in Tucson.
More telling, perhaps, is that WSU is 4-0 for only the fifth time since Mel Hein and Turk Edwards took their legendary acts to the NFL. Three of those other clubs -- the 1981, 1992 and 1997 editions -- went on to the Holiday, Copper and Rose bowls, respectively. The fourth, Price's first Cougar team of 1989, narrowly missed a Freedom Bowl invitation,
History, it seems, is finally back on the Cougars' side. Heck, if a Cougar basketball player can get out of Tucson with a win -- a la 6-foot-6 guard-turned-star receiver Mike Bush -- then there's really no doubt about it: The gods of sports destiny are shining on these resurgent Cougars -- even if Marcus Trufant is out for the season.
And the mo gets a boost because the next opponent, Oregon State, is struggling mightily and must travel to the Palouse.
But back to the wild ride the Cougars and Wildcats took us on Saturday night.
While the numbers in this series are lopsided --- Arizona leads 20-10 --- these two felines typically put on a show, and Saturday's tussle was no exception. In many ways, it was the perfect metaphor of the various brawls they've staged over the last decade.
The Cougars held the 'Cats scoreless in three of four quarters; allowed them but 76 yards on the ground; and picked off four interceptions including one by Lamont Thompson for a TD with just 70 ticks off the clock.
Similarly, Arizona's D, during one stretch between the late first quarter and early second quarter, allowed the Cougars just 15 offensive snaps over four straight series'. The results were a fumble returned for a TD, two punts and an interception.
That's the kind of ball that produced scores of 9-6 and 10-7 between these two teams in 1993-94.
Palouse Posse vs. Desert Swarm -- The Next Generation.
This was a game of split personalities. A game Price called one of the strangest he's ever been associated with. This was a contest where big-time displays of defense gave way to the slugfest-type scoring we've grown accustomed to in more recent WSU-UA match ups. Coming into Saturday night, the two teams averaged a combined 67 points per game over their previous four meetings.
When the Cougars jumped to a 28-0 lead courtesy of every tool in the arsenal -- interceptions by Thompson and James Price, a first-play bomb from Jason Gesser to Bush that set up the first of four David Minnich TDs, an then an audacious onsides kick recovered by Ira Davis that set up another Minnich tally -- it appeared that this was a plain old rout.