FRISCO, Texas — Kylan Nelson needs to find good Texas barbecue.
The Lexington, Kentucky, native is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and he knows a thing or two about what good smoked meat tastes like. Memphis is famous for its ribs. And no matter how good the ribs are in Texas, he won’t admit they’re better than his hometown sweet and spicy Memphis barbecue.
That’s why he might not even try the ribs. He’s going to make sure to sample the brisket that Texas has to offer, while trying to impress NFL scouts one final time.
Nelson and a handful of other Bobcats have NFL dreams, and Wednesday night’s matchup with San Diego State in the DXL Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium will be the last chance to leave an impression on scouts until Ohio’s pro day and, potentially, the NFL Combine.
Nelson’s opportunities in pass coverage might be limited, though. San Diego State is one of the most run-heavy teams in the country. The Aztecs boast a reputation that features back-to-back 2,000-yard rushers. Current running back Juwan Washington was on pace to be the third straight to accomplish that, but an injury derailed his season.
With that information, Nelson knows he’s going to have to fill run gaps and sure up his tackling in order to leave his own imprint on the game.
“I know that’s not my forte,” Nelson said of stopping the run as a safety. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”
A.J. Ouellette and Joe Lowery, meanwhile, have a chance to have possibly the biggest role in the outcome of the game. Both will lead the Ohio offense and dictate whether the Bobcats can control the line of scrimmage against a top-20 defense.
Ouellette will have to barrel his way through the defense; Lowery, who was named Mid-American Conference Player of Year by Pro Football Focus will attempt to move people out of Ouellette’s way.
Lowery is one of Ouellette’s favorite teammates during their five years in the Ohio football program. Now they get one final game together, not only to find creases and torment a defense, but also to showcase their ability for a shot at the next level.
‘“Right now, I’m just worried about getting this win in the bowl game,” Lowery said. “When that’s done, I’ll worry about the other stuff. For now, I’m just trying to get this W.”
Plenty of other Bobcats are going to have their chance at the next level. Michael Farkas has proven to be one of the best punters in the country. Papi White is the leading receiver in Ohio history. Joe Anderson and Durrell Wood are both along the offensive line and could find openings on rosters in the league.
But the league can wait. For now, Nelson just wants to win a bowl game and try some barbecue — even though it won’t top his hometown cuisine.
“I just want to go out there and have fun with my friends, my brothers, one more time,” Nelson said. “Come out with a win. I just love that feeling of when we’re just absolutely destroying somebody.”