BOILERMAKERS BACK BOWLING • With its best season in 15 years, Purdue Football (8-4, 6-3 B1G) closes out the 2021 campaign with a trip to the TransPerfect Music City Bowl. The Boilermakers will battle the Tennessee Volunteers (7-5, 4-4 SEC), Dec. 30, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. • The bowl bid marks the 20th bowl game in Purdue history, including the third in five seasons under head coach Jeff Brohm. • Purdue has an all-time record of 10-9 in bowl games. • The Boilermakers are making their second appearance in the Music City Bowl, having played in the 2018 version against Auburn. A HISTORIC SEASON • Purdue has won eight games for the first time since 2007 and has eight regular-season victories for the first time since 2006. • Two of those victories were over previously unbeaten No. 2 Iowa (Oct. 16) and No. 3 Michigan State (Nov. 6), giving the Boilermakers two wins over Top 5 teams for the first time since 1960. • Purdue has won four games away from home this season. To find a Purdue squad with more road wins, one must search back to 1943, when Elmer Burnham’s band of Boilermakers went 9-0 on the season with a 5-0 away record. • The Boilermakers now have five eight-win seasons since 2000, with the previous four, in 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2007, all coming under coach Joe Tiller. • Purdue finished with a record of 6-3 in Big Ten play, the most conference wins in a season since the 2003 team went 6-2. • The Boilermakers tied for second in the Big Ten West, finishing in the division’s top three for the third time in five seasons under head coach Jeff Brohm (2017, 2018, 2021). • Purdue quarterbacks have completed a school-record 381 passes this season, surpassing the previous program mark of 377 set in 1998 led by Drew Brees (361). • The Boilermakers have held four opponents to fewer than 10 points this season, the first time it has achieved the feat since 1978, when six opponents were held to single-digit point totals.
WHAT A WIN WOULD DO • Purdue would end the season with a 9-4 record, the most wins in a season since 2003. • The 2021 Boilermakers would tie for the second-most wins in program history, while becoming the 12th team in the program’s 134-year history to record nine wins in a season. • Purdue would win its fifth game away from home, accomplishing the feat for the first time since 1943. • A victory would be Purdue’s first in a bowl since a 38-35 win over Arizona in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl, Jeff Brohm’s first season guiding the Boilermakers.
ONE PREVIOUS MATCHUP • The Boilermakers and Volunteers have only met once on the gridiron, and it occurred in a bowl game (1979 Bluebonnet Bowl). • A 17-yard touchdown pass from Mark Herrmann to tight end Dave Young, a pair of consensus All-Americans, with less than a minute to play lifted Purdue to a 27-22 win over Tennessee in the final college football game of the decade • Herrmann, who currently serves as the director of leadership and alumni engagement for the John Purdue Club, threw for 303 yards and was named the game’s MVP. • The win gave Purdue its 10th victory of the year (10-2), which still remains the most wins in a single season in program history.
BOWL HISTORY 24 YEARS AGO • On this date 24 years ago (Dec. 30, 1997), No. 16 Purdue used a 20-point third quarter to capture a 33-20 victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. • Purdue quarterback Billy Dicken threw for 325 yards, an Alamo Bowl record at the time, and rushed for a team-high 43 yards to earn offensive MVP honors. • Backup quarterback Drew Brees, who would be named Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP one season later as part of a memorable Purdue career, attempted one pass in the game.
NUMBERS TO KNOW • The Boilermakers have made their presence known all across the college football landscape this season. • The following numbers are the most important to remember: 1: QB Aidan O’Connell is No. 1 in Big Ten in comp. pct. at 73.5. 2: Purdue has two Top-5 wins for the first time since 1960. 3: Bowl-eligible for third time under head coach Jeff Brohm. 4: Purdue has four wins away from home, the most in a season since 1943. 7: O’Connell with 74.0+ pct. comp. in seven straight games. 10: S Cam Allen, #10, tied for third in Big Ten for INTs (4). 14: Past 7 games: 14 takeaways. Two total in first 5 games. 21: WR David Bell became the 21st consensus All-American in Purdue history. 48: Bell and DE George Karlaftis earned All-America accolades, giving Purdue 48 All-Americans all-time. 381: Purdue quarterbacks have completed a school-record 381 passes this season, surpassing the 1998 mark of 377. 1,286: Bell had 1,286 rec. yards in 2021, 2nd in Purdue history and just 21 yards away from the program record.
MUSIC CITY BOUND: Tennessee closes its first season under head coach Josh Heupel in its home state as the Volunteers take on Purdue in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 30 in Nashville. Kickoff from Nissan Stadium is 2 p.m. CT live on ESPN. Tennessee won three of its last four games and finished with seven regular season wins — four more than last year — while posting a 4-4 mark in SEC play. The Vols were picked to finish fifth in the SEC East at SEC Media Days, but they took sole possession of third place in the final standings. Purdue finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten West at 6-3.
• BOWL FACTS: Tennessee is going bowling for the 54th time in program history. That ranks fifth all-time behind Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma. The Vols are 29-24 in bowl games, and those 29 victories rank seventh nationally. UT is making its third Music City Bowl appearance. The Vols topped No. 24 Nebraska, 38-24, in the 2016 game. UT dropped a 30-27 double overtime contest to North Carolina in the 2010 Music City Bowl. Josh Heupel is the fifth UT coach in the last 70 years to lead the Vols to a bowl berth in his debut season, joining Bill Battle (1970), Phillip Fulmer (1993), Lane Kiffin (2009) and Derek Dooley (2010). Of those previous four only Battle (def. Air Force in 1971 Sugar Bowl) won a bowl game in his first full debut season. Heupel has guided teams to a bowl berth in all four seasons as a head coach (three at UCF), and he is 1-2 in those previous games (lost to No. 11 LSU, 40-32, in 2019 Fiesta Bowl; def. Marshall, 48-25, in 2019 Gasparilla Bowl; lost to No. 16 BYU, 49-23, in 2020 Boca Raton Bowl).
• HEUPEL ERA: Josh Heupel is in his debut season at Tennessee and ranks 11th in win percentage (.729) among active FBS head coaches (min. two seasons, all wins as FBS HC). The 27th head coach in Vol history, Heupel owns the most wins this season among the eight Power Five coaches in their first year with new programs. Heupel was just the fourth first-year UT head coach to lead his team to a .500 record or better in SEC play since 1970, joining Lane Kiffin (4-4 in 2009), Phillip Fulmer (7-1 in 1993) and Bill Battle (4-1 in 1970). Heupel also joined Kiffin (7 in 2009), Fulmer (10 in 1993), Battle (10 in 1970) and John Barnhill (8 in 1941) as the only UT coaches in the last 80 years (since 1941) to win seven or more regular season games in his first season. Heupel is attempting to become the sixth UT coach all-time to win eight or more games in his first season, joining Fulmer, Battle, Barnhill, General Neyland (8 in 1926) and John Bender (8 in 1916).
• PLAY FAST: A Josh Heupel specialty, Tennessee leads the nation in offensive plays per minute at 2.94. Ole Miss is second at 2.87. By comparison, the Vols averaged 2.36 a year ago, which was 58th in the FBS. UT averages 1.61 points per minute, which also leads the FBS. From 2018-20, Heupel’s UCF teams averaged a nation-high 3.04 plays per minute.
• HEUPEL EFFECT: Tennessee’s offense has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in its first season under Josh Heupel. The Vols are ranked in the top 25 nationally offensively in seven different categories: scoring offense (38.8 – 9th), total offense (459.0 – 16th), rushing offense (212.0 – 19th), yards per play (6.50 – 20th), passing efficiency (165.37 – 7th), third down offense (46.20% – 11th) and first down offense (23.8 – 19th). Currently, UT’s 38.8 points per game ranks second in modern program history, trailing only the 1993 team (42.8). The Vols put up at least 45 points in six games this season, tying for the most 45-point games in a season in program history (1993). UT enters the TransPerfect Music City Bowl having scored 466 points this season, which is third in school history and 18 points shy of tying the school record of 484 set in 1993.
NOTING THE TENNESSEE-PURDUE SERIES • Tennessee and Purdue are meeting for only the second time. The first and only meeting occurred in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl on Dec. 21, 1979 in Johnny Majors’ third season. The Boilermakers won the contest 27-22 in Houston, Texas. • Purdue is one of 48 schools UT has faced only once. Only 23 of these opponents still reside in the FBS. • This will be the first time Josh Heupel has faced a Big Ten opponent as a head coach. The last time he played a Big Ten opponent was ironically Purdue on Sept. 16, 2017, when he was the offensive coordinator at Missouri. Purdue won that contest 35-3. • Tennessee and Purdue combined for nine contests against ranked teams this season (UT 5, Purdue 4; at time of meeting). Five of those matchups came against top five teams (Purdue 3, UT 2). • The two schools are separated by 349 miles, closer than Tennessee is to five SEC schools (Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Texas A&M). • This is the first time Tennessee has faced a Big Ten opponent since defeating Indiana, 23-22, in the 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. This will be the 17th Big Ten team the Vols have faced in a bowl game and UT is 11-5 in those previous contests. (note: previous meetings include conference at time of meeting) • This is the fifth straight Big Ten team that the Vols have faced in a bowl game. Tennessee has won four straight bowl games – all vs. Big Ten teams. • The last time Tennessee played a Big Ten opponent during the regular season was the first-ever night game at Neyland Stadium, Sept. 16, 1972, against Penn State.
THE LAST MEETING
Late Score Lifts Purdue over Tennessee in 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl HOUSTON — Tennessee, making its first bowl appearance in five years, saw a gutty second half comeback fall short in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Trailing 21-0 in the third quarter, the Vols rallied to take the lead, 22-21, late in the fourth quarter. Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann threw the game-winner, a 17-yard toss to Charley Young, with just 1:30 remaining. The Vols’ comeback was triggered by an 8-yard Jimmy Streater pass to halfback Glenn Ford. The second Vol touchdown came on a pass from wingback Phil Ingram to tailback James Berry. When Hubert Simpson scored the two-pointer, the Vols were back in the game. The Vols took the lead as Simpson scored catching the two-point conversion. All-America defensive back Roland James was the Defensive Player of the Game, with eight unassisted tackles and a 19-yard punt return to his credit. Streater finished with 270 yards rushing and passing.