Photo courtesy of Garnet and Great/Florida State football archivist
As was the case with rival Florida, Florida State’s series with Miami didn’t get off to a great start for the Seminoles.
By the mid-1960’s however, the tide in the series had began to turn. On this day 55 years ago, a late touchdown pass from Gary Pajcic to Thurston Taylor was the difference as FSU rallied past Miami, 23-20.
Setting the Stage
Just two years removed from its first ranked finish, Florida State was making strides as a program as it arrived at the Orange Bowl on Sept. 24, 1966. FSU had dropped its opener to Houston, but looked to right the ship.
After winning eight of the first nine in the series, Miami had lost two straight to FSU. Things however, were expected to be different in 1966. Miami was ranked No. 15 in the UPI Poll and playing at home.
The Decisive Moments
The contest featured five lead changes and one tie. Throughout the game, the odd-numbered quarters belonged to Miami and the evened-numbered ones to FSU.
Entering the final quarter, Miami held a 20-17 advantage. FSU had a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead early in the fourth quarter following a Miami turnover. FSU marched to the Miami 2-yard-line, but a Bill Moremen fumble gave the Hurricanes the ball back.
The FSU defense held firm however and forced a 3-and-out. Miami’s ensuing punt gave the Seminoles the ball at the Hurricanes’ 28-yard-line.
After a pair of incomplete passes, quarterback Gary Pajcic put FSU ahead for good with a 28-yard strike to Thurston Taylor with less than 10 minutes to play. The extra point was blocked and the lead remained three, 23-20.
Following an exchange of punts, Miami made a march for victory as it moved inside the FSU 5-yard-line on seven plays. On 1st-and-goal from the 4 however, Doug McGee fumbled and FSU’s Dave Braggins recovered. Miami would get just one more play from scrimmage.
Miami got the scoring started midway through the first quarter on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Bill Miller to Jerry Daanen. The Hurricanes led 7-0 after one, but FSU responded with 17 points in the second quarter.
The second quarter saw three touchdowns scored — all within a 2-minute span. After Pajcic connected with Ron Sellers for the game-tying 27-yard touchdown, Miami needed just five plays to answer.
Running back John Acuff put the Hurricanes back in front with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Daanen. A blocked extra point left the lead at 13-7 for the Hurricanes, but that was short-lived. After a lateral, T.K. Wetherell returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a score and FSU pulled back in front, 14-13.
The Seminoles added a Pete Roberts field goal after Wayne Giardino intercepted Miller before halftime. Miller’s 47-yard touchdown pass to James Cox midway through the third quarter gave the Hurricanes a 20-17 lead.
Miami finished with 342 yards to 287 for the Seminoles, but six turnovers proved too costly for the Hurricanes. Bill Campbell and Giardino each came away with two interceptions in the win.
Miami finished with 161 rushing yards while FSU was held to 71. The Seminoles did hold the passing edge. Taylor led FSU with four catches for 81 yards.
The Seminoles would go on to finish 6-5 with a Sun Bowl loss to Wyoming. Miami, on the other hand, finished 8-2-1 and ninth in the final AP Poll, following a Liberty Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Its lone home loss that season came to rival Florida State and on this day 55 years ago.