NASHVILLE – The math wasn’t too hard.
Junior Redshirt Cedric Tillman entered the Music City Bowl with 69 yards to become Tennessee’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter in 2012 and only the ninth in program history. Tillman’s first catch of the day was a 41-yard touchdown on the fourth offensive play for the Volunteers.
His second reception midway through the first quarter was marked by a score of 61 yards.
“I had a strong feeling,” Tillman said when asked if he knew he had eclipsed the milestone at this point.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior from Las Vegas finished with seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, his three receiving scores setting a Tennessee bowl record. Tillman finished the year with 1,081 yards, placing him fourth in a single-season record behind Robert Meachem (1,298 in 2006), Marcus Nash (1,170 in 1997) and Hunter (1,083).
Tillman’s first touchdown won a seventh straight game with a receiving score, beating Joey Kent’s six straight set mark in 1995.
“The most important thing for me was the team and watching us grow,” Tillman said. “Truth be told, we were really falling apart, and Coach (Josh) Heupel came here and set a standard. He’s done so much for me and my teammates, and I’m trying to play for them and him.
“We’re just going to keep improving. We’re going to keep training and stay after that to watch one more movie so we don’t have that feeling in our mouths next year.”
Tennessee vs Purdue at Music City Bowl on December 30, 2021
The setbacks of the second trimester
Tennessee beat Purdue 21-7 in the first quarter to extend their advantage to 190-51 in the opening 15 minutes of the game.
The Flights couldn’t continue, however, as the Boilermakers used a 16-0 second quarter gain to take a 23-21 halftime lead.
“It was completely out of the ordinary,” Heupel said. “We didn’t execute some simple things very well. We had a few chances in explosive games and we didn’t perform them, and we had simple things in third down situations that we didn’t perform. .
“I’m not taking anything away from Purdue, but we weren’t very good at that quarter.”
The Vols have been outscored 143-109 in the second quarter this season.
“Maybe it was the dismissal, but it was not characteristic of us compared to the way we were playing later in the football season,” Heupel said.
Very busy banks
Redshirt Vols junior linebacker Jeremy Banks was credited with 20 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. His 20 total saves match the Tennessee record set by Carl Zander in the 1984 Sun Bowl loss to Maryland.
Banks nearly pulled off a huge game with 9:11 remaining in rule, but failed to find an interception near midfield.
Injuries called into question
The second half of the four-hour, 38-minute Music City Bowl featured several players left on the ground with questionable injuries.
Heupel has discussed this topic occasionally this season and was asked on Thursday whether there should be a mandatory cooling off period for players before they are allowed to return to play. His response caught the conference. press by surprise.
“You know what’s crazy? The officials wanted that too,” he said. “I thought it was pretty funny that they came to tell me that. They think there has to be a rule change.”
Color it orange
The crowd announced Thursday of 69,489 set a Music City Bowl record, surpassing the 69,143 who watched Tennessee’s 30-27 double-overtime loss to North Carolina in 2010.
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the audience was dressed in orange.
“The passion of our fans is unmatched in all college football,” said Heupel. “They were on fire. Getting on the buses was a special scene, as good as I’ve ever been. I appreciate their support tonight, but really throughout the season.
“I appreciate that they are taking this trip with us.”
Tennessee’s bowl record fell to 29-25, Thursday’s result ending a four-game playoff-winning streak against the Big Ten teams. … Chase McGrath, who missed a 56-yard field goal attempt in the final regulation game, was 12 of 16 this season. … Defensive backs Kenneth George and Brandon Turnage and tackle Elijah Simmons had to miss the Music City Bowl with injuries along with right tackle Cade Mays.