In football, there is truth behind hidden numbers

Keith is the sports editor at the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. He can be reached by e-mail at, and can be followed on Twitter @ETSports.

Ever heard of lying by omission?

That's what hidden numbers do in football.

And sometimes the omission is the biggest lie of all.

We saw it Friday night when Stephenville beat Waco La Vega despite being out-gained by 70 yards. We saw it in the Tarleton-Abilene Christian game at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 15 when the Texans lost despite out-gaining the Wildcats by more than 200 yards.

Tarleton coach Cary Fowler even brought it up in his postgame interview.

"You have to go back and look at the hidden yards…" he said in reference to two big special teams plays that effected at least 80 yards not seen on a standard box score.

There were at least that many in the Stephenville game. Consider that La Vega lost about 15 yards on a fourth down when a punt was blocked by Chase Varnado. The Pirates were averaging right at 30 yards a punt, so there's 45 yards in hidden numbers.

And what about the 43-yard fumble return by Jared Stroebel? Take 45 yards from La Vega and add 43 to Stephenville and the Yellow Jackets actually out-gain the Pirates by a slim margin.

Look at the last two Dallas Cowboys games - all the hidden yards on a fumbled kickoff to begin the game, an interception moments later and a blocked punt for a touchdown that helped the Seattle Seahawks beat the Cowboys on Sept. 16, and the yards hidden from the box score Sunday when the majority of points came from turnovers and Dez Bryant returned a punt inside Tampa Bay's 10 yard line to help Dallas win a game that was quite lackluster by NFL standards.

Stats don't lie, but then neither does the quality of a team's special teams - where many hidden yards often come from - or its knack for creating takeaways or being hurt by giveaways.

The yards we see in a football game are usually quite telling. But the one's we don't see - at least in your standard box score - can be telling as well.

Games are often won and lost on unforeseen plays - a big punt return, a block in the kicking game, a fumble or interception that ends a promising drive.

In football, it's not always the yards we see that determine the game. Sometimes it's the yards the box doesn't show that decides the winner.

May the hidden yards favor your favorite team this weekend.

Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports