Hassan Beydoun, Eastern Michigan set to clash with Central Michigan for Michigan MAC title

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Eastern Michigan will be playing its regular-season finale Friday against Central Michigan at Kelly/Shorts Stadium with the teams playing for the Michigan Mid-American Conference championship.

It’s a big game for EMU, which last won the Michigan MAC title 10 years ago. The Eagles (7-4, 4-3) also are trying to win their eighth game of the season, which would be the most victories for the program since their MAC championship season in 1987.

Dearborn product Hassan Beydoun is a playmaker for Eastern Michigan, second in the MAC in receptions (78) and fifth in receiving yards (863).

EMU junior receiver Hassan Beydoun is thrilled to be along for the ride.

Beydoun arrived at EMU as a student after being passed over by Division 1, II and even III schools coming out of Dearborn High.

Beydoun wanted to attend EMU because his father attended the college, a reason he was an Eagles’ fan while growing up.

Now, Beydoun is a playmaker for the Eagles, second in the MAC in receptions (78) and fifth in receiving yards (863).

The Chippewas (7-4, 5-2) have some playmakers of their own, led by the nation’s leading rusher (1,516 yards) in Lew Nichols III, along with receiver Kalil Pimpleton (54 receptions, 891 yards), who returned punts 70 and 97 yards for touchdowns in CMU’s 42-30 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 3.

Nichols and Beydoun both had outstanding performances the last time the teams played when the Chippewas defeated EMU 31-23 last season. Nichols ran for 196 yards and two TDs and Beydoun had eight catches for 100 yards.

CMU last won the Michigan MAC title in 2017.

“It’s a big game with eight wins on the line and the MAC Michigan championship, especially since it’s rivalry week too,” Beydoun said. “Still, we don’t attack anything differently, just game plan prep like any other week.

“... I applied to Eastern as a regular student, so to actually be a part of a turnaround and doing stuff that a team hasn’t done in a long time is really humbling, especially since I’m contributing.”

Beydoun certainly has done that, helping the Eagles win, 52-49, at Toledo on Nov. 2 for the first time since 1999 when he had 12 receptions for 197 yards and two TDs while also getting 70 yards in three kickoff returns as well.

Beydoun talked about his journey to get on the field.

“Out of high school I had no offers, Division II, III nothing, no preferred walk-on, so I applied to Eastern, just 30 minutes away, just start my life and go to school,” Beydoun said. “I went to school my first semester, then my second semester in the winter time, and then I actually came across a tweet on my feed that said if any student at EMU wants to try out for the football team there’s a tryout on this date.

“I always watched football every single Saturday and I always believed I could play with those guys, so I felt what do I have to lose? I went to the tryout, tried out with 20 or so people and I was the only one to make the team. I went to the Bubble (EMU’s practice facility), it was in January, like 6 in the morning, wore shorts and it was freezing. I asked them later on why they picked me, and they told me I did everything right, agility drills, everything.”

Beydoun was 140 pounds then, and now is 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds.

“I wasn’t ready to play then, got in the weight room and practiced,” Beydoun said. “I traveled to every game my freshman year, just played on special teams, then the following year I contributed as a receiver.”

And, then Beydoun received a scholarship two years ago on Christmas day — the day before the Quick Lane Bowl.

“We had a Secret Santa between teammates and the guy who had me told me I was getting a Chipotle gift card,” Beydoun said. “He handed me the envelope, and because they gave a scholarship to a teammate, I was wondering why there was a camera in my face. When I opened up the envelope I started laughing because they spelled my name wrong. My teammate was like ‘Dude, read the letter,’ and then when I found out I got a scholarship. I was so excited. It was like my story wasn’t complete, but it was complete at the moment because all the grinding out, you know working at the burger shop, Got Burger! during summer workouts. Then, you finally get the scholarship and you’re rewarded for everything.”

Beydoun had nine catches for 113 yards the following day in a 34-30 Quick Lane loss to Pittsburgh at Ford Field and has been an impact player since.

“I appreciate Coach (Chris) Creighton for giving me a chance, all the support from my family and teammates,” Beydoun said. “For me to make an impact, it’s all about preparation, understanding defenses and finding holes and just being a smart player.

“A term that we use in our room is QBF, which means quarterback friendly, whatever you can do to be a reliable option, find a way to get open. Whatever route you give me I’m going to go run it. If there’s a man in front of me I’m going to beat him.”

With all the coaching jobs available it’s almost certain Creighton’s name will be mentioned with his ability to make the Eagles relevant in his seven years of running the program, leading them to their first winning season in 20 years in 2016, finishing 7-6.

And, expect CMU third-year head coach Jim McElwain to also have his name in the mix for openings, guiding the Chippewas to the MAC championship game in 2019, then to a possible 6-2 MAC record if they win their home finale against the Eagles.

WMU closes out regular season at N. Illinois

WMU will play at MAC West champion Northern Illinois on Tuesday night.

The Broncos (6-5, 3-4) opened the season 4-1, including a win at No. 20 Pittsburgh, before stumbling the rest of the way in losing four of their final six to find themselves in the MAC West basement.

It was just five short years ago that P.J. Fleck led the Broncos to the MAC championship, entering the Cotton Bowl with a 13-0 record before a loss to Wisconsin which left them ranked No. 14.

Tim Lester replaced Fleck, who left for the head job at Minnesota, and has gone 30-25 (21-16 MAC) with his best record at 7-6 in 2018 and 2019. The Broncos could be playing for his job with a new athletic director coming soon after Kathy Beauregard announced her retirement as AD.

Northern Illinois has been the surprise of the MAC, predicted by MAC coaches to finish  last in the West.

Northern Illinois is 8-3 (6-1 MAC) and will play in the MAC title game Dec. 4 at Ford Field against the winner of the East division showdown between Miami (Ohio) and Kent State on Saturday.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com