It was an emotional day for JoJo Tillery.
The East Ridge High School graduate made his second return to Chattanooga as a member of the Wofford football team, which defeated the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 21-10 Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Tillery had seven tackles in the game, which tied for the team lead, and also broke up a pass.
But it was also a rough day for the 6-toot-2, 210-pound senior safety. He found out before the game that Tim Mason, his coach with the Chattanooga Youth Association's Chiefs, had died on the field that morning.
Mason lettered at UTC in 1995 along with Terrell Owens and attended Owens' 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Chattanooga.
"Just lost my friend @coachtim_24 a few hours ago and I'm shaken to the core right now," Owens posted on his Instagram page Saturday afternoon. "I am beyond heartbroken for this loss. This hurts! My sincerest condolences to the family and to his wife Kisha. This has been a tough day thus far, my heart is heavy and nothing I've done can ever prepare you for these unexpected moments. This guy has supported me from my days @utchattanooga to the last time I saw him at my HOF Induction in Chattanooga. Tim, I'm gonna miss you bro and I'm gonna help your football team just as we discussed a couple weeks ago. I promise. I love you like my own brother. Man I'm (barley) getting through writing this post full of emotions but this hits close to home. I can't really put into words what I'm feeling except that it hurts. U left on the football field doing what u did best, giving back to those kids. RIP homie!"
Tillery called the game "bittersweet" afterward, noting he had a lot of his family in the stadium.
"When I got here, I just walked around the field about five times thinking about it," Tillery said. "(Wofford defensive lineman) Miles (Brown) got me and pulled me together. He knew something was wrong because I'm usually the loudmouth.
"It got to me before the game, but I just knew I had to dedicate the game to (Mason)."
Tillery helped limit the Mocs to 186 yards of total offense in the game, with 75 coming on the first drive and 108 in the first quarter.
"We knew we had to fix some plays," he said. "They keep throwing the hitches and outs, but we made some checks and pushed through."
Big yardage margin
Despite a massive discrepancy in total offense Saturday, the Mocs were able to keep the Wofford scoring down.
The 511 yards of total offense UTC gave up was the most since allowing 640 to Jacksonville State in the second round of the 2015 Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The 442 rushing yards were the most allowed since that same game, and the first time the Mocs have allowed multiple 100-yard rushers since then.
The 186 yards of total offense was the lowest output UTC has had since gaining 172 against Western Carolina last season, when quarterbacks Alejandro Bennifield and Nick Tiano went out with injuries.
Wofford kept the ball for 14 more minutes more than UTC on Saturday and ran 25 more plays.
"I looked and saw they definitely had control of time of possession. That hurts our defense," Mocs receiver Wil Young said. "Our defense bailed us out plenty of times. We have to find a way to help them. We didn't do that today."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.