For the college football purist, the bowl season is a magical time of year. Intersectional head-knockers with pride on the line at what is supposed to be a neutral site. As a reward for a good season, the entrants get one more chance to compete so oftentimes it's all laid on the line and that makes for even more excitement. For the seniors, it is one more chance to compete, for returning players it is an opportunity to impress for the coming campaign.
The 23rd edition of the Music City Bowl was all that and a whole lot more. Hard-hitting, big plays, loud crowd, controversial calls, lead changes, and a final score that was not determined until the final play. For the Bowl peeps it certainly was mission accomplished. Here are a few quick take-outs from a sports scribe that enjoyed his 18th visit to Nashville’s Holiday tradition.
Purdue’s 48-45 overtime win told us a lot about those boys from the Big Ten. The Boilermaker passing game was as advertised. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell torched Tennessee with 534 yards passing but his receiving corp was even more impressive as they time and again made clutch catches in tight coverage. Their resiliency was also admirable as they were down 14 after the first quarter in anything but a neutral environment. There will be those that say Purdue benefitted from some questionable decisions by the zebras, but nonetheless, the Boilermakers have a good football team.
On the other side of the coin, Tennessee fans may feel they came up an officiating call or two short in this one, but the bottom line is they represented very well and had their chances. The offense is very fast-paced and playmakers like Hendon Hooker (378 yards passing 5 TDs), Cedric Tillman (150 yards receiving 3 TDs), and Jabari Small (180 yards rushing 1 TD) all return. Big plays hurt the Vol defense (3 Purdue TDs of over 62 yards), but there are returning playmakers on that side of the ball that do lay the leather. Winning is always the end goal, but the Big Orange should be proud of how they performed on this Bowl stage.
At the end of the day, why was the 2021 Music City Bowl so fantastic? Was it the record crowd? Perhaps the five touchdown plays of greater than 40 yards? Maybe all those slobber-knocking hits? The four touchdowns in the final five minutes of regulation that produced more mood swings than a menopause clinic?
I think it was all of the above…thanks Music City Bowl…hope to see you next year.