Purdue has been met with some scrutiny after their 48-45 win in the Music City Bowl due to the number of injuries that occurred when they were playing defense against Tennessee.
The Boilermakers suffered plenty of injuries throughout the day against the Volunteers, but more than a few of them appeared to be the strategic type meant to slow down the Volunteers’ up-tempo offense. Tennessee averages 76.2 plays per game, good for the 20th most in the FBS and fourth-most in the SEC.
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Purdue was dealing with many absences on defense, including that of their top pass rusher George Karaliftis. That said, there were still some injuries that looked suspicious and drew the ire of the Tennessee fans, players and coaching staff.
Even the referees thought that Purdue was taking things too far. They went so far as to address the issue with Tennessee coach Josh Heupel during the game.
“Yeah. They think there needs to be a rule change,” Heupel said of the refs during a postgame news conference.
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The rule change that the referees wanted was a potential cooling off period for injured players, as Heupel explained. He didn’t necessarily agree with it but thought it pointed to how absurd the injury situation was during the contest.
“No, it’s crazy,” Heupel said of a potential rule change. “The officials wanted that tonight. I thought that was pretty comical they came up to me and said that.”
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This isn’t the first time a Tennessee game has been derailed late by injuries. Former Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin and his Ole Miss team were booed relentlessly by Tennessee fans in mid-October after the Rebels beat the Volunteers 31-26. There were a total of 18 injury stoppages from both sides during that game, including 11 that came during the fourth quarter.
Kiffin was pelted with a variety of debris, including a golf ball, from Tennessee fans frustrated by the late-game slow-down that occurred. The SEC called the display “unacceptable” and fined Tennessee $250,000 because of it.