Numbers don't lie. How many times have you heard someone say that?
But sometimes, they do lie. Put together the right set of numbers and they'll jump off the page and lie right your face.
The Youngstown State football team proved it Saturday in a 38-34 season-ending loss to Missouri State.
Most of the numbers, with the possible exception of the one in the previous paragraph, say the Penguins should have won.
YSU quarterback Kurt Hess passed for a school-record five touchdowns and 298 yards. Along the way, he also established a Penguins single-season record with 26 touchdown passes.
The Penguins controlled the ball for 35 minutes and 10 seconds, collected 24 first downs and finished with 444 total yards.
YSU took a 27-10 lead into the third quarter.
Penguins tailback Jamaine Cook ran for 104 yards. It was his eighth game of 100-plus yards this season.
YSU's offense didn't turn the ball over and its defense - thanks to safety Jeremey Edwards - forced two. Edwards intercepted a pass and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Scott Sentner.
And yet, the Penguins lost and saw their Football Championship Subdivision playoff hopes crushed.
How could this have happened in spite of all the numbers that suggested otherwise?
YSU's secondary - the soft underbelly of the defense throughout the last two seasons - was victimized several times on each of Missouri State's last two touchdown drives. Bears quarterback Trevor Wooden connected with his receivers on several critical downfield passes. A pass interference call also hurt.
But the offense also must share some blame. Coach Eric Wolford has talked at length about the need for the Penguins to close out opponents by moving the chains. They had a chance to do just that, taking over with 6:28 to play and a 34-31 lead, but came up short.
"We got two first downs there and we needed three," Hess said.
Poor special-teams play also played a role.
The Penguins elected to punt from the Bears' 42 and a long return resulted in a net of just 6 yards on a punt Nick Liste put inside Missouri State's 10-yard line. YSU also gave up a 75-yard kickoff return.
Wolford called the kickoff and punt coverage "atrocious."
"Quite frankly, I don't think we deserved to win that game," Wolford said.
It won't be easy to get past this collapse and the associated disappointment, but once the Penguins do, they'll realize they're a team on the rise.
Hess, Cook and most of the receivers will be back. The entire offensive line - starters and backups - also return.
The defense was young, too. With the exception of Sentner, linemen Daniel Stewart, Andrew Johnson and Obinna Ekweremuba, linebacker John Sasson and cornerback Josh Lee, most of the players in the Penguins' two-deep chart return.
Wolford admits YSU has improved. A year ago, the Penguins finished 3-8 and lost their final seven regular-season games. This season, they were 6-5 and were battling for a playoff berth until the final 10 seconds of the last game of the season.
"We're improved," Wolford said. "That's not hard to see. I think the future does look bright."
But it's difficult for YSU to consider this season a success.
Impossible, actually. Hess and Johnson said so themselves not long after Saturday's game. Wolford agreed.
"It'll never be successful to me until we put another (championship) banner up there," Wolford said.