Rapid Reaction: Purdue rallies to take down Tennessee in wild Music City Bowl
Without David Bell, George Karlaftis and a handful of other key contributors, Purdue still found a way to come out of the Music City Bowl a winner. The Boilermakers made a field goal on its only overtime possession to win the thrilling back-and-forth battle 48-45.
Tennessee broke the scoring ice at the 10:28 mark of the first quarter when Hendon Hooker hit Cedric Tillman for a 41-yard touchdown. The Volunteers went up 7-0 with the extra point, but that lead didn’t last long. On Purdue’s first play of the next possession, Boilermaker quarterback Aidan O’Connell and wide receiver Broc Thompson connected for a 75-yard TD. The early sequence set the tone as it turned out to be a four-quarter, back-and-forth battle.
Tillman made it 2 catches for 102 yards and 2 TDs when Hooker found him for a 61-yard score. The extra point made it 14-7 in the first quarter. Kamal Hadden stepped up to stop Purdue from answering with an interception, the first turnover of the game.
Tennessee went on its third scoring drive after the turnover, going 80 yards on 8 plays with Jabari Small scoring on a 2-yard run. UT went up 21-7 in the first quarter, but Purdue scored 16 straight and led 23-21 at the half.
The Vols started strong in the second half, going on a 7-play, 71-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter. Velus Jones caught the TD to put Tennessee back out in front 28-23 with the extra point. Once again, the lead did not last long as Purdue answered with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The extra point was good, putting the Boilermakers back in front 30-28.
Tennessee regained momentum late in the third quarter. At the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, UT retook the lead 31-30 when Chase McGrath made a 30-yard field goal. On Purdue’s next drive, Trevon Flowers picked off O’Connell, the third interception of the game for the Vol defense.
UT looked well-positioned to extend its lead, but a 15-play, 61-yard drive ended at the Purdue 24 when Hooker was stuffed on fourth-and-1, giving the ball back to the Boilermakers.
Purdue took a 38-31 lead with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter. O’Connell hit tight end Payne Durham for a pass that went 62 yards as Durham spun out of the Tennessee defense in a bizarre sequence near the sideline. It was O’Connell to Durham again for the 2-point conversion.
Tennessee got a 69-yard run from Small to get into a goal-to-go situation. On fourth-and-goal, Tillman caught his third TD of the day. The extra point was good, tying the game 38-38.
On a third-and-5, O’Connell hit Thompson for a 70-yard touchdown, putting Purdue in front 45-38 with 2:57 left. The Vols responded by going 72 yards in 82 seconds for a game-tying TD. Hooker hit Jaylin Hyatt 2 yards out.
Tennessee had a chance to win the game in regulation. Chase McGrath attempted a 56-yard field goal with 2 seconds left. Purdue won the overtime toss and elected to go on defense.
Purdue concludes the season with 9 wins and a bowl victory, the best year of the post-Joe Tiller era.