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1. Lane Fenner’s non-catch, 1966 (Florida 22, FSU 19)
Posted Nov 21, 2005 by Carl Lisciandrello
Updated Nov 27, 2005 at 09:12 AM
It was another era - before instant replay, before rampant dissection of plays by ESPN’s College GameDay crew, before every Florida and FSU game was televised.
One still photograph was worth a thousand cries of anguish from Seminoles fans. Long-time FSU boosters still have the widely circulated image. It still hangs in the office of FSU president T.K. Wetherell, a former Seminoles wide receiver, and in his box at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Lane Fenner was in!
But just as Seminole fans erupted to celebrate what would’ve been a monumental victory against the Gators, field judge Doug Moseley (an SEC official) gave a different ruling.
Lane Fenner was out!
‘‘We thought our world had come to an end,’’ Wetherell said. ‘‘There is absolutely and utterly no doubt about what happened on that play. It was a catch.’‘
To set the scene, Florida led FSU 22-19, taking the early fourth-quarter lead on a 41-yard pass from Steve Spurrier to Larry Smith. With 26 seconds to play from UF’s 45-yard line, Wetherell was removed for 6-foot-5 junior Lane Fenner.
The call: East-I-Y-Wide 76.
Fenner ran a deep fade down the right sideline, in anticipation of defenders blanketing All-American Ron Sellers on the curl. Gary Pajcic sailed a perfectly thrown pass to the corner and it was hauled in by Fenner, over his inside shoulder, as he lunged, crossed the goal line, hit the turf and rolled out of bounds.
A dramatic 45-yard touchdown with 17 seconds remaining? No catch, said Moseley, who ruled Fenner didn’t have his feet down while in possession of the ball.
‘‘Nonsense!’’ Wetherell said. ‘‘Look at the picture. Lane’s foot and knee are on the ground. The ball is in his hand. People say, ‘Well, he must’ve juggled it.’ I’ve seen the film. Doug Mosley came over and took the ball away from him. He wasn’t juggling it.
‘‘You can see the catch. You see the goal line. You see the sideline. And he’s 2 feet in bounds.’‘
Wetherell said the late Lawton Chiles, a loyal Gator who was Florida’s governor, used to kid, ‘‘He was in. We knew it. You knew it. But you still lost.’‘
‘‘I appreciated the call,’’ deadpanned former Gators coach Ray Graves, now retired in Tampa.
The play won’t die.
But what of Lane Fenner?
Efforts to reach Fenner were unsuccessful. Nothing new there. Wetherell said he hasn’t seen Fenner in at least 20 years. Monk Bonasorte, executive director of FSU’s Varsity Club, said Fenner never attends football alumni functions.
‘‘Nobody knows where he is,’’ Bonasorte said. ‘‘Everybody knows the name, but I don’t know many people who have ever seen him [in recent years].’‘
Wetherell remembers an offbeat teammate, one who took courses in ballet and anthropology, one who shunned the limelight, one who felt he was more than a one-play performer [Fenner played for the San Diego Chargers].
Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat located Fenner in 1986 - the 20th anniversary of his non-catch. Fenner would only identify his home as ‘‘a city somewhere in the Southwest.’’ He said he has worked as a bus driver, surveyor, illustrator, commercial artist and free-lance artist. In 1986, Fenner said he was a high school math and science teacher. He also was doing some oil painting.
‘‘I think if the catch were really important to my life, I would have come back to Florida at some point, would have talked to reporters, would have dipped back into the limelight,’’ Fenner said. ‘‘But I didn’t. So I guess it makes no difference to me whether that pass was a touchdown or not.’‘
It makes a difference to Wetherell.
When he became FSU’s president in 2003, he instructed the school’s sports information department to adjust the 1966 season scores in the Seminoles’ media guide. The game against Florida is italicized and the score is designated as *22-26 - or the outcome had Fenner’s catch been allowed.
‘‘I still believe we won that game, so it’s reflective of what happened,’’ Wetherell said. ‘‘While you can’t rewrite history, you can certainly highlight it.’‘