Although Billy Taylor wasn’t at the school for that entire span, he was the man who orchestrated both of the sterling defensive efforts.
Taylor was the Bucs’ defensive coordinator when they blanked Concord 44-0 in 2003. He was also the team’s defensive coordinator for its latest shutout, a 45-0 victory over Gardner-Webb on Saturday.
In between shutouts, he coached at three other schools.
“The biggest thing I remember was it was our last season we were playing football and we knew it was coming to an end,” Taylor said about the 2003 game. “I gave the game ball to my dad. He’s almost 87 years old and he still has that ball in his family room.”
That shutout came early in the season and just a couple of months later, ETSU didn’t have a football program any more, having dropped the sport because of financial trouble. The school then went 12 years without giving up a point.
Taylor moved on to work at Elon, Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech. His heart was always at ETSU, where he played linebacker from 1985-87 and was a team captain.
When the program came back, so did Taylor. And now his defense is the strength of the team that has gotten off to a 5-1 start and is nationally ranked under first-year head coach Randy Sanders.
The latest victory came Saturday during homecoming weekend.
“It was really special,” Taylor said. “Shutouts are just so hard to come by. The other team might kick a field goal late or you might get a turnover and give them good field position.”
ETSU almost got a shutout in its first season back in football. Well, the defense actually did. Warner scored twice in the fourth quarter, on a safety and a touchdown on a fumble return, while losing 42-9 to the Bucs in 2015.
“A lot of things have to happen right for you to get a shutout,” said Taylor, who was never part of an ETSU shutout during his playing days with the Bucs. “That’s why they’re so rare. As a defensive coach, you really just want to hold the opponents to less points than we can score.”
The Bucs are ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing defense, holding opponents to 70.5 yards per game. They lead the country in tackles for loss, averaging 10 per game, and rank fourth in sacks at 4.17 per game.
That smothering defense has helped get the Bucs ranked 23rd in the STATS FCS poll and 24th in the coaches rankings. They’re also 3-0 in the Southern Conference, tied with Wofford for first place.
“We’ve worked real hard for it,” Taylor said. “Our guys are believing that we can win football games now. The three conference wins are huge. We’ve put ourselves in position where we’re playing in October with something on the line.
“We’re going to take it as far as we can take it.”