Purdue wide receiver Broc Thompson (29) catches a pass as Tennessee defensive back De'Shawn Rucker (28) defends at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Purdue

Purdue nips Tennessee in OT, wins high-scoring Music City Bowl

Aidan O’Connell threw for 534 yards and five touchdowns and Mitchell Fineran kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime as Purdue nipped Tennessee 48-45 on Thursday in a thrilling Music City Bowl in Nashville.

In a game where the teams combined for 1,290 total yards, the Boilermakers (9-4) got the last laugh against the Volunteers (7-6) thanks to a dynamic passing attack. O’Connell found Broc Thompson seven times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while Payne Durham collected five catches for 85 yards and two scores.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker matched O’Connell with five TD passes and threw for 378 yards without an interception. Cedric Tillman registered seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, Velus Jones Jr. had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score, and Jabari Small ran for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Volunteers.

Tennessee got the ball first in overtime and went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. However, Jaylen Wright was stood up at the goal line and the whistle blew before he was able to reach the ball across. That gave Purdue a chance to win, and Fineran snuck his kick inside the left upright.

The teams combined for four touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

O’Connell began the wild sequence by throwing a pass to Durham, who spun away from three defenders, stayed inbounds and bolted for a 62-yard touchdown. The duo connected on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Boilermakers a 38-31 lead.

However, the Volunteers tied it less than 1 1/2 minutes later. Small’s 60-yard run set up Hooker’s TD pass to Tillman on fourth-and-goal from the 13.

That deadlock lasted only 40 seconds, as O’Connell hit Thompson for a 70-yard go-ahead score with 2:57 to play. But Hooker and Princeton Fant quickly hooked up on a 58-yard completion to set up Hooker’s game-tying 2-yard TD strike to Jalin Hyatt with 1:35 remaining.

Each team had one more possession in regulation, but Purdue punted on its trip and Tennessee’s 56-yard field goal came up short.

The Boilermakers led 23-21 at the break before the teams jockeyed back and forth in the third quarter.

Tennessee regained the lead on Jones’ 15-yard catch-and-run, and then O’Connell and TJ Sheffield connected on a stellar 10-yard pitch-and-catch into the end zone to put Purdue back in front, 30-28. Chase McGrath’s 30-yard field goal flipped the scoreboard once again, giving the Volunteers a 31-30 edge at the end of three quarters.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) during the first half against the South Alabama Jaguars at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee, Purdue enter Music City Bowl after late-season success

Tennessee heads west on I-40 to play in front of an expected partisan crowd in Nashville on Dec. 30, when the Volunteers take on Purdue in the Music City Bowl.

The Volunteers (7-5) wrapped up the regular season by winning three of their final four games, with their only loss in that span coming against then-No. 1 Georgia. Tennessee scored at least 45 points in each of its final six victories, and it scored at least 38 points in every win this year.

Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker has enjoyed a splendid season, throwing 26 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,567 yards, and he has produced 561 yards and five scores on the ground.

“(He’s a) great leader and I just believe that he is still becoming the best version of himself as a player,” first-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel said.

Jabari Small (612 yards, eight TDs) highlights the Tennessee backfield contingent, while Cedric Tillman leads the team in catches (57), receiving yards (931) and TD grabs (nine).

On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jeremy Banks had by far the most tackles on the team (108) and ranks third on the squad with 4.5 sacks. Defensive back Alontae Taylor, who nursed a foot injury in recent weeks, is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.

The Volunteers’ secondary would have needed all the help it could get against Boilermakers wideout David Bell, who was named a first-team All-American after posting 1,286 receiving yards — 21 shy of the school record — on 93 receptions. However, Bell decided to skip the bowl game to protect his NFL draft stock.

Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis will sit out the bowl game as well.

“I understand the position they’re in,” Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said. “With all of our players, we want to communicate what we think. Obviously, they hear other opinions and other sides of the story and then they weigh that and do what’s best for them.

“But we’re gonna support both those guys. They’ve done a tremendous job for us. Great ambassadors of the program, performed at a high level and really have a bright future.”

Aidan O’Connell (73.5 completion percentage, 23 TDs, eight INTs) threw 16 touchdowns and no picks over the past five games, during which Purdue went 4-1. The Boilermakers (8-4) don’t get much help from their rushing attack, as seven of their top eight runners average 4.0 yards per carry or less. Only Bell, with just three carries for 39 yards this season, comes in north of that figure.

Jaylan Alexander leads Purdue with 94 tackles, while Kydran Jenkins has a team-leading five sacks. Karlaftis, who might be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, had 4.5 sacks.

The Volunteers are appearing in the Music City Bowl for the third time. They lost to North Carolina in double overtime in 2010 before defeating Nebraska six years later. That victory over the Cornhuskers is part of Tennessee’s current four-game winning streak in bowl games.

Purdue, meanwhile, has earned only one bowl victory since 2011. The Boilermakers’ most recent bowl appearance came in this event in 2018, when they were trounced by Auburn 63-14.

The only prior matchup between Tennessee and Purdue came in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl, which the Boilermakers won 27-22.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz calls a timeout during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Wednesday’s Music City Bowl ‘highly unlikely’

This week’s Music City Bowl between Missouri and Iowa is “highly unlikely” due to an uptick in COVID-19 numbers with the Tigers, The Athletic reported Sunday.

The Tigers (5-5) are scheduled to face the No. 15 Hawkeyes (6-2) on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.

Missouri lost its final two games of the regular season, including a 51-32 decision at Mississippi State on Dec. 19.

Iowa won its last six games after opening the Big Ten campaign with losses to Purdue and Northwestern.

–Field Level Media