Purdue Defeats Tennessee in Overtime in Chaotic 2021 Music City Bowl

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVDecember 31, 2021

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30:  Aidan O'Connell #16 of the Purdue Boilermakers passes the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first quarter of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Purdue survived a wild battle with Tennessee to earn a 48-45 overtime win in the Music City Bowl. 

Aidan O'Connell totaled 534 passing yards and five touchdowns Thursday in front of a packed crowd at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

It was a back-and-forth battle throughout, with Purdue overcoming a slow start to take a 23-21 lead at halftime. Of course, the chaos truly started in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

With Tennessee up 31-30, the teams combined for four touchdowns in a span of three minutes and 23 seconds.

Yahoo Sports College Football @YahooSportsCFB

The Music City Bowl is tremendous right now.

Troy Aikman @TroyAikman

Music City Bowl is nuts!

Purdue Athletics @PurdueSports

Seriously. What is this game?

Tennessee had a chance to win in regulation but its 56-yard field goal attempt with two seconds on the clock fell short.

The Volunteers then failed to score in overtime when Jaylen Wright was controversially ruled short of the goal line on a fourth-down run.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Somehow this wasn't a TD 😳 <a href="https://t.co/19mLa4CPEz">pic.twitter.com/19mLa4CPEz</a>

Tim Brando @TimBrando

All season long we’ve seen officials not blow plays dead with forward progress. How many times have seen Bush push situations but Here we did! A real shame. It’s been such a great game.

The call allowed Mitchell Fineran to seal the overtime win for Purdue with a 36-yard field goal.

Purdue Football @BoilerFootball

Walk it off in Nashville. <a href="https://t.co/Ju99YsckMj">pic.twitter.com/Ju99YsckMj</a>

It helped the Boilermakers close their season at 9-4, the program's most wins in a season since 2003. The success came after three straight losing seasons, including a 2-4 mark in 2020.

Tennessee also had a strong first season under Josh Heupel after going 3-7 last year, but the 7-6 final record still leaves room for improvement.

Hendon Hooker finished with five touchdown passes, but it wasn't enough for the Volunteers to pull out a win.   

Notable Performances

Aidan O'Connell, QB, PUR: 26-47, 534 passing yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs

Broc Thompson, WR, PUR: 7 catches, 217 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Payne Durham, TE, PUR: 5 catches, 85 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Hendon Hooker, QB, TEN: 26-41, 378 passing yards, 5 TDs

Jabari Small, RB, TEN: 26 carries, 180 rushing yards, 1 TD

Cedric Tillman, WR, TEN: 7 catches, 150 receiving yards, 3 TDs

Big-Play Tennessee Offense Not Enough for Win

Tennessee had a top-10 scoring offense in college football this season and it was on display in the Music City Bowl.

Cedric Tillman gave his team the early advantage with two long touchdown catches in the first quarter:

SEC Network @SECNetwork

Hendon Hooker DIME 🎯 <a href="https://t.co/y0pF9spcyH">pic.twitter.com/y0pF9spcyH</a>

SEC Network @SECNetwork

VOLS DIALING UP THE DEEP BALL 🚀 <a href="https://t.co/0urQ2ykxfk">pic.twitter.com/0urQ2ykxfk</a>

Tillman had 102 receptions and two touchdowns on his first two catches of the game.

Tennessee continued to impress offensively in the third quarter with Velus Jones Jr. getting into the end zone.

SEC Network @SECNetwork

GIVE. HIM. SIX.<a href="https://twitter.com/henhook2?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@henhook2</a> ➡️ <a href="https://twitter.com/VelusJr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VelusJr</a> <a href="https://t.co/SUbOJKlfA3">pic.twitter.com/SUbOJKlfA3</a>

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Hooker completed one big pass after another to keep his team alive.

A game this close only makes the small mistakes more notable, however.

The Volunteers gave up the lead before halftime after a bad fumble by Hooker.

Tim Owens @TimOwensTV

What a series of unfortunate events.<br><br>Hooker fumbles. :34 remaining in half<br>Purdue Recovers.<br>Purdue scores 2 plays later and will lead at the half<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Vols?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Vols</a>

A turnover on downs also kept Tennessee from scoring at the end of a 15-play drive in the fourth quarter.

The defense was still the bigger issue with a secondary that was extremely sloppy while giving up big plays.

Teresa Walker @TeresaMWalker

Now six DPIs called on the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Vols?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Vols</a> with a second straight, and Heupel was protesting to the official after that call.

Steve Gorman @SGSFOX

Okay…now that was hilarious. <br>Nice tackling Vols.

Trent Smallwood @SmallwoodTrent

This Tennessee defense 🙄

In overtime, the coaching staff put the game on the line with a pair of fourth-down tries. After converting the first, the second was ruled to be short to leave Purdue with an easy path to victory.

The talent was seemingly enough for Tennessee to pull away for an easy win, but the mental and physical errors held the team back in the disappointing loss.

Aidan O'Connell Thrives for Purdue Without Top Weapons

It was a difficult task entering the game for Aidan O'Connell, who had to run the offense without David Bell after the All-Big Ten receiver opted out of the game. No. 2 receiver Milton Wright was also unavailable and T.J. Sheffield suffered an injury in the second half of Thursday's game.

The passing attack still excelled at times with O'Connell throwing impressive passes all around the field.

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

BOILERMAKERS BACK ON TOP! <a href="https://t.co/WBbkLTlCj8">pic.twitter.com/WBbkLTlCj8</a>

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

Purdue is back on top after this dime and grab! 🎯 <a href="https://t.co/wUq8z3bLpG">pic.twitter.com/wUq8z3bLpG</a>

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

Okay, Aidan O’Connell. I see you. 🔥

Purdue showed it was ready to compete early on with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Broc Thompson. 

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

Jeff Brohm is the real all-gas, no-brakes play caller. Missed a fourth-down pass from O'Connell to Broc Thompson, then came right back with a bomb to Thompson to open the next possession for a TD.

O'Connell continued to spread the ball around in the second quarter to keep the Boilermakers alive.

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Purdue, without the great David Bell, has 347 yards of offense in the first half. Jeff Brohm is such a good offensive coach.

The Boilermakers eventually took the 23-21 halftime lead when O'Connell found a wide-open Payne Durham in the end zone. Purdue outscored Tennessee 16-0 in the second quarter and kept the momentum after halftime. 

It wasn't all perfect for O'Connell, who made some rare mistakes after totaling 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last five games of the regular season.

He stayed aggressive without his top receivers, but this led to some regrettable passes.

Jerry Palm @jppalmCBS

O'Connell uncharacteristically wild today. It's cost them two scores and at least two of the INTs.

mike carmin @carmin_jc

Another poor decision by O'Connell. 3rd INT of the day

Wes Rucker @wesrucker247

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Vols?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Vols</a> pick Aidan O’Connell for a third time.<br><br>Trevon Flowers this time.<br><br>No idea where O’Connell was going with that ball.

Purdue still found a way to come out on top with players like Thompson and Durham stepping up when it mattered.

The Boilermakers showed incredible depth and resolve to win the high-scoring battle.