Purdue Defeats Tennessee in Overtime in Chaotic 2021 Music City BowlDecember 31, 2021
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.
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.
The call allowed Mitchell Fineran to seal the overtime win for Purdue with a 36-yard field goal.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Purdue showed it was ready to compete early on with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Broc Thompson.
O'Connell continued to spread the ball around in the second quarter to keep the Boilermakers alive.
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.
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.