THOUSAND OAKS — Question: What do you get when you mix the best and worst of football?
Answer: A consistently inconsistent performance from Cal Lutheran, as in Saturday's nonconference game against the University of San Diego. The Kingsmen did plenty to make it close but not enough to make it a victory, falling, 27-21, before a Homecoming Day crowd of 2,317.
"Our offense is playing in spurts," said Cal Lutheran wide receiver Pete Marine, who caught 11 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
"Sometimes we're looking like the (San Francisco) 49ers; other times we couldn't beat a high school team."
Marine was the middleman on two dazzling hook-and-ladder plays between quarterback Adam Hacker and running back Steve Roussell as Cal Lutheran was trying to overcome the final six-point deficit.
But each time they reached the pinnacle of execution, the Kingsmen (3-2) faltered.
The first trick play gained 24 yards on fourth and nine from the San Diego 45.
Two plays later, Hacker's pass into double coverage in the end zone was intercepted by Shaun Grove with 2 minutes 8 seconds to play.
Aided by three timeouts and a solid hold by its defense, Cal Lutheran got the ball back on a punt with 1:42 remaining. On third and 16 from the San Diego 47, Marine again fed Roussell, this time from midair, and the Kingsmen had a first down at the 30 with a minute left.
Then Cal Lutheran's offense stopped functioning for good. After two incomplete passes, a sack and a penalty, Hacker threw his 44th pass, which fell incomplete. He finished with 21 completions for 265 yards.
"Our inability to establish any consistency in the second half was kind of our downfall," Cal Lutheran Coach Joe Harper said. "We make a good play and come back with a mistake, which would amount to a penalty or blowing a protection."
But the Kingsmen's most costly mistake came at the end of the first half.
Cal Lutheran had taken a 14-7 lead after Hacker lofted a 39-yard touchdown pass to Tim Hilton and running back Ivan Moreno carried one yard to close a 12-play, 80-yard drive with 2:49 left in the half.
San Diego (3-2) punted on its next possession, and Cal Lutheran took over on its 20 with 1:39 left. After Roussell lost five yards on a run, Hacker's pass was intercepted by Grove, who returned it to the Kingsmen 16.
Two plays later, Josh Branen's 10-yard run tied the score.
"We were struggling a little bit," Torero Coach Brian Fogarty said, "and that gave us an opportunity. Josh made a real nice run."
The script, in fact, seemed to call for a Cal Lutheran victory. Over the previous two seasons, the schools had split one-point victories.
"I think every time we play Cal Lutheran, the way the momentum shifts, it's just unbelievable," Fogarty said.