Purdue beat Tennessee to win the Music City Bowl. Five thoughts and analysis of the game, and what it all means.
Purdue beat Tennessee 48-45: Music City Bowl 5 Things That Matter
Final Score: Purdue 48, Tennessee 45 OT
Prediction: Tennessee 38, Purdue 30
Line: Tennessee -7.5, o/u: 66.5
5: Your 2021 Music City Bowl was awesome
Seriously, what more could you possibly want out of a bowl game?
Purdue’s 627 yards of total offense were terrific. Tennessee’s 666 were stronger.
There were big plays, wild momentum swings, lots and lots of interesting coaching moments, clutch plays on both sides, and one very, very questionable call in overtime that probably won’t make the – let’s just say – occasionally surly Tennessee fans mad.
No, it wasn’t a playoff game. It wasn’t for anything more than fun and the joy of the game, but this is exactly what a bowl game should be.
If you weren’t entertained by this from start to finish, college football can’t help you.
Now, about that play …
NEXT: The forward progress call
4. The forward progress call
Tennessee had the ball first in overtime with a fourth and goal chance at the 1. Jaylen Wright was stopped, he kept churning, and he was still slightly moving forward all while on top of a Purdue player. And then he reached out his hand to put the ball over the goal line.
At first glance – and in real time – it seemed like Wright was stopped and Purdue had what effectively would be the game-sealing stop.
It went to review – which showed that Wright’s forward progress was stopped, sort of, not really but maybe, and the call was confirmed, and …
Mitchell Fineran hit the game-winning field goal for Purdue on its overtime possession.
It’s unfortunate for an amazing game like this to be remembered for that, and Tennessee fans don’t exactly take things like this all that well, but it will forever add to the legend that this bowl game should become.
NEXT: Aidan O’Connell’s big day
3. Aidan O’Connell’s big day
The Boilermakers were missing star receiver David Bell – he caught 93 passes for 1,286 yards and six touchdowns – and it didn’t matter.
The Purdue passing game worked exactly like it was supposed to.
Senior QB Aidan O’Connell was on fire to close the season. He hit 74% or more of his passes in each of the last seven games with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions – all in the loss to Wisconsin – with wins over Iowa and Michigan State along the way, and then he did this.
26-of-47 for 534 yards and five touchdowns.
He gave up three interceptions, but he had to press and keep the offense moving with Tennessee exploding early on.
Broc Thompson stepped up with seven catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The junior caught just 23 passes for 240 yards all year before this.
Junior TE Payne Durham was terrific all season long, and he stepped up with five catches for 85 yards and two scores.
O’Connell kept on cranking up big shots down the field, he made up for the mediocre day from the running game, and he close out the great bowl with a huge win for a Purdue program that came up with a terrific season.
NEXT: THAT’S the Tennessee offense
2. THAT’S the Tennessee offense
Yeah it was tough loss, and yeah it was controversial, and yeah Tennessee fans are going to be miffed, but who cares?
That’s what Tennessee football under Josh Heupel is going to be going forward – and he doesn’t even have all his guys in place yet.
Oh, there were some issues – like the 15 penalties, the stalled attack in the second quarter, the inability to come up with a key defensive stop – but that offense just put up 666 yards and 45 points against a good defense.
It ran well, threw deep at will, and it’s going to be a big, big problem for the SEC as more and more players will want to be a part of the fun.
It’ll still take more on the defensive side, and more consistency and sharper calls from time to time – it was a huge mistake at the end of regulation to keep bombing deep instead of getting into better position for a field goal – but it was a great showcase game for the program.
NEXT: Purdue had its big moment under Jeff Brohm
1. Purdue had its big moment under Jeff Brohm
Purdue went 2-4 in 2020, and that’s coming off a 4-8 2019 season.
Head coach Jeff Brohm got the Boilermakers to a bowl game in 2018 – and got obliterated by Auburn in the Music City 63-14.
With this win over Tennessee, Purdue has its first nine-win season since the 2003 campaign, and it did it with the schemes on both sides of the ball working.
The offense was explosive all year, the defense was among the best the team has had in years.
Everything should keep on rolling next year, too.
Purdue was missing a slew of defensive backs in this, but the D as a whole has a strong foundation that should be good enough to build around. It’s not about dominating on that side of the ball. It’s more about holding serve.
The offense is loaded with receiving weapons, some nice backs who fit the part return, the line is fine, and Aidan O’Connell will be back for his sixth year to run the whole thing.
This was a good season and a great showing no matter what for Purdue, but to win a bowl game like that is going to mean a whole lot in the process.