YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Cal Lutheran Defeated in a Decision : Football: Failed gamble on fourth down is costly in 19-17 loss to Occidental.


THOUSAND OAKS — At first glance, Cal Lutheran's 19-17 loss to Occidental on Saturday at Mt. Clef Stadium looks just like another wild game with the winning score coming in the final minutes.

But the key play came midway through the fourth quarter, three minutes before Cal Lutheran quarterback Ryan Huisenga fumbled into his end zone and Occidental lineman Andre Coleman fell on the ball for the go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes 23 seconds left.

The Kingsmen led, 17-13, and faced fourth and four at the Occidental 15. Rather than having Dan Leffler attempt a 32-yard field goal, Coach Joe Harper elected to try for the first down.

Tailback Terrence Thomas went up the middle and was stopped by the Tigers after a two-yard gain. He had lost a yard on a third-and-three carry.

"I felt that we were going to need more than three points," Harper said. "We had moved the ball extremely well down there on that drive, and I felt with two downs to make three or four yards, we could do it."

Huisenga, who had completed 10 of his last 11 passes, didn't question Harper's decisions to go for the first down or to give the ball to Thomas.

"Terrence is The Man," Huisenga said. "You have to give him the ball. It's easy to second-guess, but they just stacked up (on him)."

In hindsight, Harper will also note that Occidental missed the extra point after the go-ahead score, meaning the Kingsmen would have led, 20-19, if they had made the field goal.

Instead, Cal Lutheran fell to 1-2, 1-1 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

After winning their first game with a touchdown in the final two minutes, the Kingsmen have lost their last two on scores in the final six minutes.

Although the final results of Saturday's game and last week's against the University of San Diego were similar, there was one significant difference: Cal Lutheran's running game.

Against San Diego, Thomas set a school record with 224 yards. But Occidental used a seven-man front and had players in the Cal Lutheran backfield as quickly as Huisenga could drop back and hand Thomas the ball.

He was tackled for losses of 20 yards, finishing with a net of 80 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas' 174.5-yard average after two games was second in the nation in Division III.

"It was frustrating when they kept shooting the gaps," Thomas said. "They were doing stunts and we were not picking them up."

With Cal Lutheran sputtering, Occidental (3-0, 2-0) took a 13-7 lead on a four-yard pass from Davin Lundquist to LaMont Terry in the second quarter and a seven-yard run by Lundquist early in the third.

The Kingsmen then adjusted. By stacking linebackers at the line of scrimmage, Occidental gave up the short pass.

Huisenga, who completed 22 of 39 passes for 197 yards, went on a hot streak, completing six of seven in a 64-yard drive that ended with Thomas scoring on a two-yard run.

The extra point gave Cal Lutheran a 14-13 lead with 5:01 to play in the third quarter.

On Cal Lutheran's next possession, Huisenga completed two of three passes for 28 yards and Thomas, given more of a cushion by the Occidental linebackers, gained 31 yards in four carries. The drive ended with Leffler's 26-yard field goal 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles Times Articles