Purdue Defeats Tennessee 48-45 In Memorable, But Controversial, Music City Bowl

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A nearly five hour game in Nashville turned out to be one of the most entertaining bowl games so far this season, with a bit of controversy as well. Tennessee and Purdue faced off this afternoon, both looking to capitalize on their offensive firepower.

Who knew this game would give us one of the wackiest fourth quarters we’ve witnessed all season, which consisted of Purdue cashing in on one of the craziest touchdowns we’ve seen this season. But that play was in the middle of a wild five minutes that won’t be forgotten, as both teams combined for 406 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter and four touchdowns.

It was one of the wildest finished I’ve seen this season, period. But we weren’t done, as the Vols missed a 56-yard field goal to win it in the final seconds. Tennessee’s Josh Heupel talked about the play postgame, mentioning the coaches and kicker were confident in the yardage.

“Right on the edge there. Coach Ekeler believed in it. Chase did too. He wanted to go and drain it.”

As we headed to the first overtime, everyone inside Nissan Stadium probably thought they had seen it all, but they were in for a crazy treat. Tennessee was on offense first and decided to go for it on fourth down, the first time, which Hooker gained. But it was the second 4th down attempt that caused controversy in Nashville, as Vols running back Jaylen Wright reached the ball over the goal line. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the referees called “forward momentum,” even though the official did not blow his whistle until after the ball crossed the line.

“It sounded like the whistle blew after he extended the football,” Josh Heupel said postgame.


After this crazy situation, which Tennessee shouldn’t have been in to begin with, Purdue kicked a game-winning field goal to win the game in overtime, 48-45.

This game should’ve been won in regulation by Tennessee, but they gave up two touchdowns due to bad tackling and a busted coverage. But you have to credit Purdue for finding a way to win, as Aidan O’Connell passed for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 3 interceptions. The most gutsy performance of the day goes to WR Broc Thompson, who had 217 yards receiving, along with 2 touchdowns. Thompson had the most yards receiving against a Tennessee defense in its history, adding to the misery of the Vols.

Courtesy Of UT Athletics

For the Vols offense, it was hit and miss, even with Hendon Hooker throwing for 378 yards and 5 touchdowns. There were times where the Vols quarterback mishandled snaps, overthrew receivers and just looked different than the guy Tennessee fans have seen over the course of the season. On the flip side, WR Cedric Tillman continued to bring the heat, catching 7 passes for 150 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tillman will be returning next season and his performance should give fans a bit of hope at the position that is losing key contributors Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton.

“Completely out of the ordinary, in the second quarter we just didn’t execute,” Josh Heupel added after the game. “Not taking away anything from Purdue, but we just weren’t good in the second quarter.”

The Vols had 663 yards of total offense, while Purdue racked up 627 yards. The lack of pressure and downfield coverage led to the Boilermakers playing pitch and catch on the Vols secondary at times.

But overall, the Vols had multiple opportunities to win this football game, but the defense continued to struggle, while the offense bailed them out numerous times. Whether it be lack of tackling or the defensive line not getting enough pressure on the quarterback, this unit has seen better days.

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)

There were times where the Vols looked dead, after Purdue scored multiple gut punching touchdowns, but running back Jabari Small kept grinding. Finishing the day with 180 yards rushing and 1 touchdown, Small was key in giving the Vols an opportunity to tie the game up late.

“Disappointed in the result but the journey has been unbelievable,” Heupel said about the season. “Disappointed for our fans… Man, the passion of our fan base isn’t surpassed anywhere else in college football. Through the bowl season, but really, all season long.”

In the end, this Tennessee season was more successful than most experts predicted. After finishing with seven wins, this team will carry momentum into the offseason, even with the loss. The return of Hendon Hooker and Cedric Tillman should will benefit the offense, while the defensive unit will look to grow, while having to replace some veteran players, like Matthew Butler.

But, as this crazy game came to an end and Josh Heupel sat at the podium, next to Cedric Tillman, he was grateful for the effort this team gave the staff, through all the adversity.

“The journey is way more important than the destination in some respects.”


Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.


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  1. This game took forever to play. How many penalties are these officials going to call? How many replays are necessary? If they can’t get it right, then get more officials on the field so they are not missing so many plays. Congrats to Purdue on a hard fought and fun game. Boiler Up!

    • Haha, it’s not that hard when an 11-2 team is facing 6-6 team. Line up every conference top to bottom and see who wins. Only conference with a remote chance is Big Ten. And you sure as shit didn’t watch the game yesterday. Only way Purdue wins is with the officials’ help. You continue to show that you are a fool.

      • 8-4 vs 7-5, in Nashville Tennessee vs a team from… Tennessee. Yep that is totally weighted to Purdue. Probably SEC officials too. Was the sun in Tennessee’s eyes, bad drinking water or just bullshit SEC bias?

        Remember the phrase Big 2 little 10? That’s what the SEC is, it’s Bama, Georgia a bit then a bunch of meh teams who can have up or down years but the SEC isn’t head and shoulders above the Big 10.

        • ACC officials, and yeah they sucked the whole game. The last call was just the cream on top. Yes it seemed like a home game for the Vols, but they got tagged with several mystical PI penalties before the last call. Hmmm most by that same official.

  2. Whoever was calling the plays on that last series, Heupel or another coach, was terrible. Why throw 2 long passes on 2nd and 3rd down leaving a career-long field goal for McGrath. Another 10 yards might have made the difference. Terrible calls. Tennessee should have won in regulation.

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