The Daily Nole

66 Days Until FSU Football: 1966 FSU-Florida Contest Ends in Controversy

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66 days stand between the fans and Florida State football. As part of the offseason, we’re doing a countdown that highlights players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Thursday, it was the 1967 FSU squad pulling off an incredible tie against the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

Today, it’s the 1966 Florida-Florida State game ending in controversy.

The storied rivalry may have truly began on Oct. 8, 1966. This was the ninth ever meeting between the two programs and had arguably the highest stakes in its young history. Florida was ranked in the top 10 and looking to go to a major bowl for the second straight year. It was led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, who commanded a juggernaut offense that hoped to overwhelm the Seminoles.

That never happened. Florida State was able to hold the Gators to just 98 rushing yards on the day, with Steve Spurrier being forced to carry the load for the Florida offense. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw four lead changes by the time it was over.

But it turns out that a play without a touchdown became the difference maker.

Less than a minute remained as the Seminoles’ offense made one final push down towards victory. Florida State was down 22-19 when it was able to get into Florida territory with under 20 seconds to go.

Quarterback Gary Pajcic rolled to the right and looked down the sideline, where he saw a streaking Lane Fenner getting behind two defenders. Pajcic tossed a beautiful 45-yard bomb that fell right into Fenner’s lap in the end zone before his momentum carried him out of bounds. For a few seconds, the home crowd cheered at what everyone assumed was a caught touchdown and game-winner.

But all of the sudden, the field judge came running down to the end zone, signaling an incomplete pass. He ruled that Fenner was out of bounds before he maintained possession of the ball, taking away the six points from the scoreboard and forcing the Seminoles to try again.

FSU was stunned, but in the days before instant replay, it could do nothing except watch its potential victory get wiped away by an officiating call. The Seminoles tried a 48-yard field goal with three seconds left but it fell short.

There still exists clear photos and even video of the infamous touchdown-ruled-incomplete. Fenner maintained that he was in bounds, saying “I know I was in bounds until Larry Rentz hit me. If he hit me after I got the pass, it should have been a touchdown. If he hit me before, it should have been pass interference. I was sure I had it.”

Thus concluded one of the first intense moments of the FSU-Florida rivalry. We’ve linked to a video of the catch below. Watch it and decide for yourself if Florida State was cheated out of a win.

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