NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Music City has had its share of songs about heartbreak and loss. The Tennessee Vols contributed their own verse Thursday as they lost to Purdue 45-48 in overtime of the Music City Bowl.
Purdue kicker Mitchell Fineran kicked a 38-yard field goal to win after the Vols came up short on a fourth-down run by Jabari Small at the 1-yard line. Officials reviewed the run but said Small’s forward progress was stopped before the football crossed the plane of the end zone.
At times Tennessee (7-6) could not find the right note against the Boilermakers (9-4). Penalties and turnovers kept the Boilermakers in the game as the Vols watched as a 21-7 lead evaporated before halftime.
Tennessee got the scoring started when Hendon Hooker hooked up with Cedric Tillman for a score for the 10th time this season. Hooker found Tillman streaking behind the defense for a 41-yard scoring strike to give the Vols a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take the Boilermakers long to answer, on the next play from scrimmage Aidan O’Connell connected with Broc Thompson on a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7 with 10:28 to play in the first quarter.
Hooker and Tennessee continued to have their way with the Purdue secondary, finding Tillman again, this time from 61 yards out to give the Volunteers a 14-7 lead.
Tillman eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season after finishing with seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
On the next possession the defense came up big, Kamal Hadden picked off O’Connell in the end zone with the Boilermakers driving to tie the game.
The Vols offense then went on an eight-play, 80-yard drive, taking up 2:14, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Small to give Tennessee a 21-7 lead with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Purdue tacked on three field goals to pull within 8 at 21-16.
With just :34 remaining in the half, DaMarcus Mitchell sacked Hooker jarring the ball loose deep in Tennessee territory. Prince Boyd Jr. recovered the fumble for the Boilermakers. Two plays later O’Connell rolled to his right finding tight end Payne Durham for the 2-yard touchdown. Purdue led 23-21 at the half.
Tennessee came our fast on the first drive of the second half, Hooker connected with Velus Jones Jr. for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Vols the lead 28-23.
While Hooker had an inconsistent performance he still finished the game with strong numbers including 26-of-41 passing for 378 yards and five touchdowns.
Purdue answered right back when O’Connell dropped an absolute dime to TJ Sheffield in the corner of the end zone to put the Boilermakers back on top.
After a Chase McGrath 30-yard field goal gave Tennessee a 31-30 lead, the defense came up big again when Trevon Flowers intercepted O’Connell deep in Tennessee territory.
The two teams traded two touchdowns as the Boilermakers got touchdown passes of 62 and 70 yards only to see the Vols counter with big runs by Small to set up two touchdown passes of their own.
With the clock running down at the end of regulation, the Vols converted a fourth-and-3 near midfield to allow Chase McGrath to kick a 56-yard field goal but it fell short and to the right.
Tennessee was flagged for 15 penalties for 128 yards, including six pass interference calls. Purdue was called for five penalties for 61 yards.
O’Connell finished the day 26-of-47 passing for 534 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions. Thompson led all Boilermaker receivers with 217 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns.
The two teams combined for 1,293 yards of offense – 666 for Tennessee and 627 for Purdue. The Boilermakers only had 93 yards rushing on the night.