Did you ever wonder how Auburn's suspect secondary was able to cover Florida State's four NFL-bound receivers and tight end so well for the first seven drives of the game? The Tigers held Florida State to just 156 yards on 33 plays through the first half of the ballgame.
It was as if Auburn knew Florida State's routes in the first half.
Florida State certainly believed the Tigers did. And after the first drive off the second half, ESPN's cameras capture audio appearing to come from receiver Kelvin Benjamin, shouting at and over a discussion between Jameis Winston and Jimbo Fisher. "Dameyune [Craig] calling [out] all the plays," the audio says. Craig, of course, coached for Fisher from 2010 to 2012 before leaving for Auburn.
In response, Jimbo Fisher's offense used towels to shield the playcalls from Auburn.
After Benjamin shouts that, Florida State runs 30 plays for 229 yards. Its yards-per-play increased by about 75-percent, more commensurate with the highest scoring offense in college football history.
@TomahawkNation McGuire said he tried to tell Jimbo I’m 1st half but coach was so dialed it he wouldn’t didn’t listen at 1st— Didier Occident (@DidieratDoak) January 9, 2014
@TomahawkNation they said they could see Craig running down to Ellis. Referenced one play called to Shaw in particular— Didier Occident (@DidieratDoak) January 9, 2014
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 indeed may 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.