The Potato Bowl: Multiple Chances at History
EMU's storied season finishes with a bowl game on the famous blue turf (of all places) against San Jose State (of all schools).
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Run it Back: The 1987 Cal Bowl
How can you talk about the upcoming bowl game without mentioning the one that happened 35 years ago?
Eastern Michigan, MAC Champions after a 7-1 season in league play (9-2 overall), went out to the Cal Bowl to take on San Jose State, which was in its second-straight trip to the bowl game (drubbed Miami 37-7 the year before). EMU, a huge stranger to the bowl, walked into the game as 17-point underdogs.
EMU led at the half but trailed SJSU through the third quarter. Gary Patton, the MVP running back of the game and former All-American selection, ran in a touchdown 15 yards, untouched, to put the Hurons back ahead. SJSU battled back and Jimmy Saxon scored on a 15-yard run on just his 4th carry against the EMU defense. QB Ron Adams spotted a 32-yard throw to WR Craig Ostrander for the Hurons to re-take the lead, 30-27.
The Spartans, led by QB Mike Perez, who Sports Illustrated previously labeled as “arguably the best quarterback in the country who wasn't named Vinny,” threw a perfect pass when his team needed it most. Unfortunately, free of any defenders when the ball hit his hands, Saxon dropped the check-down pass on fourth down.
EMU finished the year with a 10-2 record and a MAC championship, and the 1987 team has been, still, the program’s highest-achieving team in the modern era.
This year’s team has the chance to solidify itself as the best since ‘87. EMU didn’t win its division this year, but it’ll finish with either 8 or 9 wins on the year, and EMU fields an All-American on defense just like it did back then.
SJSU isn’t used to winning either. The Mountain West is its third conference since it left the Pac Coast Athletic Association after the 1987 year and this season was just its fifth winning season since then — second under current coach Brett Brennan. In bowl games, SJSU has a 4-1 record since 1987, including one where the Spartans entered the game with a 5-7 record.
EMU doesn’t have a 4-1 record in bowl games since then. It’s still looking for that first one.
And what better time to finally make that happen than Tuesday at 1:30 (local) in the afternoon?
The team found out their bowl assignment on Selection Sunday, but the day wasn’t filled with meetings and lectures. That day was actually when the team spent time celebrating at its annual banquet to spend time together and give out individual awards. Chris Creighton didn’t note to his team, yet, that SJSU was coincidentally the last opponent the school has ever beaten in a bowl contest, but he did let his team know what Vegas thought about the matchup.
“The part that we did mention is that within minutes of being named opponents of San Jose State is that we were underdogs,” Creighton told the media on Selection Sunday.
“Story of our lives.”
San Jose State opened as 4.5-point favorites over EMU for this game, and let’s not forget who was favored the first time around.
Hassan Beydoun’s caps off historic career
It’ll be the final game for all 12 of EMU’s outgoing seniors, but one that’s made a huge connection to the fans in green and white is former walk-on Hassan Beydoun.
He’s probably tired of telling the story for a millionth time, so let’s refresh:
Beydoun was just a student at EMU. He played at Dearborn HS, but not a single college team offered the undersized receiver. He had an academic scholarship that helped him to go to Eastern, the same school his father, a first-generation immigrant from Lebanon, went to. Beydoun played some rugby his freshman year, but jumped on the chance to be a walk-on for the football team when he saw the chance posted on Instagram.
He made the cuts, played up through special teams, and became an All-MAC receiver last year after he had over 1,000 receiving yards — a rarity at Eastern Michigan.
“I just don’t see it as weird because I’ve been a true believer of trying to be the best and surrounding myself with guys who want to be great,” Beydoun told me after his second-to-last practice on the grey turf. “Making the team might be a crazy story to some, but to me it’s always something I always knew I could do.”
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