Florida State's second, third, fourth and fifth drives spanned just 31 yards over 14 plays. Auburn's defense played out of its mind, much better than it had for the entire season, regardless of opponent. Defensive backs played like they knew the route Florida Sate would run. Three receivers and a tight end headed to the NFL couldn't get separation against a group of Auburn corners and safeties that could barely be described as "good" through 13 games.
It was as if Auburn knew Florida State's routes in the first half.
Florida State certainly believed the Tigers did.
In response, Jimbo Fisher's offense used towels to shield the playcalls from Auburn in the second half. Here is the Florida State head man on Monday addressing the issue.
And then secondly, we noticed it in the second half, you brought the towels back out. Was that a situation where you felt like maybe they were stealing signals? They had a couple of our signals a couple times and were getting to them. That happens, people do it, and that's our fault. You've got to change them, constantly rotate them, being able to get them in different ways. That's part of the game. I don't have a problem with that.
Fisher has used the towels for much of his career at Florida State. The first time I can remember them being used by Florida State was in 2007 when Fisher, as an offensive coordinator, faced off against Nick Saban's Alabama squad. Fisher had worked for Saban, who had worked for Bill Belichick, who was implicated in the NFL spygate scandal with the New England Patriots.
Fisher also grew up around Bobby Bowden and Terry Bowden, for whom he coached at Auburn. Bowden also used techniques to shield signals from the other team, as explained in this series of tweets from former Florida State player Eric Luallen.
@TomahawkNation Bowden did it back in the 80's. Put QB's 1 on each side of Brad Scott who signaled plays in.— Eric Luallen (@EricLuallen) January 7, 2014
@TomahawkNation QBs positioned so only clear view of Brad was by our QB on the field. Blocked other team & also insured backups knew signs.— Eric Luallen (@EricLuallen) January 7, 2014
How did Auburn get the signals initially? It might have been through coach Dameyune Craig, a former quarterback under Jimbo Fisher, and the Florida State quarterback coach from 2010 to 2012. Certainly, FSU changed up its signals some, but Auburn was able to identify and pick up certain constants, adjusting coverage and pressure blitz packages with the information it gained.
In the second half, Florida State ran 34 plays for 227 yards, 46-percent more per-play than it gained in the first half.
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