In 1966, Florida State and Florida met for just the ninth time in the history of the two schools. Two years prior, the Seminoles had secured their first ever win vs. their rival, and for some of Oct. 8, 1966, it looked like they might earn one over a Gator team that, at that point, ranked No. 10 in the country.
Led by Steve Spurrier in his Heisman Trophy year, the team would finish 9-2, while Florida State would squeak by at 6-5, losing four of those games by eight points or fewer.
The two met early in the season: the week, in fact, that Florida earned its top 10 ranking, a fact that serves as double significant given that the AP only ranked 10 teams at that point. Florida State had just beaten Miami for the third time in a row (in the midst of the first seven game win streak vs. the Hurricanes) coming off a close lose to Houston, while Florida was 3-0 with wins over Northwestern, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
The match started off even enough, with the teams exchanging touchdowns in the first and Florida holding only a 14-10 advantage at halftime. The Seminoles railed off nine points in the third, taking a 19-14 lead, but Spurrier threw his third touchdown of the day and converted a pass for two points to give Florida a 22-19 lead with 10:44 to go.
After a few stalled drives, Florida State had a chance to win it, driving down the field as time wore down.
And then, with 17 seconds left, quarterback Gary Pajcic chucked a ball downfield to a streaking Lane Fenner, registering his first playing time of the day in replacement for an injured Ron Sellers. Fenner had gotten space, and hauled in the pass, falling into the end zone for what was apparently a game winner.
Except, it wasn’t.
Signaled a touchdown by one official and waved off by another, Fenner was ruled out of bounds, erasing the would-be winner and instead, forcing the Seminoles to set up a field goal attempt, missed in the closing seconds by kicker Pete Roberts, who also failed to convert an extra point earlier in the day.
Photographic evidence proved Fenner’s in-bound status, and Florida State began circulating photos of the catch, incensed that a victory had been ripped out of its hands. Florida State’s student paper, The Florida Flambeau (shouts out), went so far as to declare the game a victory for the Seminoles, running the headline “Pajcic’s Bomb Brings Victory (Officials Rule Otherwise).”
“So help me, I thought it was good,” Gainesville Sun sports editor Joe Halberstein wrote, “And when Gator writers will say that...”
It might strike some as odd, but choosing a missed call as one of the most important plays in Florida State history is as loyal to the Seminole fan brand as anything. After the school had earned its first win over the Gators, it showed once again that it could compete with them, and if not for an egregious missed call, beat them once more.