This quote from a great world leader and friend of college football goes a long way to explaining a lot of the surprising game scores that we see almost weekly in college football. How many times have we sat down to watch a highly anticipated match up between two evenly matched teams only to have the outcome determined long before the final whistle blew? The 2005 Orange Bowl comes to mind (USC 55 Oklahoma 19). Although the scoreboard reflects a significant difference between the two teams, reality is that the two teams are evenly matched. The big win is the outcome of a few little plays going in favor of one team. Two, three, or four plays in a game made up of 150 plays can seem like the "very little movement at the hinge"; however, when the game ends it is clear that those couple of plays caused a "great movement at the perimeter." Let's look at the two BYU losses this year to better understand this sports phenomena. September 19, 2009, BYU was favored to beat Florida State. The game ended in a 54-28 victory for Florida State. Although BYU lost by almost 4 touchdowns, it was essentially 2 plays that caused this drastic outcome. Play one was O'Neill Chamber's first quarter fumble. BYU had driven from its own 20 yard line to the FSU 18. Max Hall dropped back and connected with Chambers on a short pass when he fumbled at the 13. FSU recovered ending BYU's scoring threat. This was not just a fumble. It was a turnover that ended a scoring threat that we have no reason to doubt would have ended in a touchdown to tie the game at 7. Instead, FSU took over and scored another touchdown to push the lead to 14 Play two was another O'Neill Chambers fumble, this time in the second quarter. FSU scored with 23 seconds before halftime to go up 28-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Chambers fumbled at the BYU 30 yard line. This put FSU in position to tack on three more points with a successful field goal. What could have been a 28-21 game at the half, with BYU receiving the ball to start the second half, was a 30-14 FSU lead instead. Those two fumbles resulted in a 10 point difference, and completely changed BYU's play calling in the second half and the way FSU could defend the BYU offense. I am not saying that BYU would have won, but the game would have been much more competitive. October 24, 2009, BYU had a conference showdown with the TCU Horned Frogs. BYU started the second half trailing 21-7. On the Cougars' first possession, however, they were moving the ball effectively and poised to score a touchdown and make the score 21-14. That would have been BYU's second consecutive scoring drive, and the game still up for grabs. However, a Max Hall pass was tipped by the intended receiver and intercepted by TCU. TCU subsequently kicked a field goal to push the lead to 24-7, another 10 point swing that was the real difference in the game. Three plays in two games have given the nation the perception that BYU's 7-2 record is the result of BYU beating 6 bad teams, losing 2 ugly games, and getting a lucky injury against Oklahoma. The reality is that those three plays were the hinge that was magnified over the course of those two games and leaving an impression of BYU that overshadows its other accomplishments this year. In sports we have another word for hinge: momentum. Momentum is the 12th man in football. Sometimes Mo switches his jersey throughout the game. Other times, he jumps on the swinging fence and rides it until the hinge opens fully.
Have you ever noticed a large gate in a farm fence? As you open it or close it there appears to be very little movement at the hinge. But there is great movement at the perimeter (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Small Acts Lead to Great Consequences,” Ensign, May 1984, 81).