For the third game in a row, the Cal Lutheran defense played well enough to win, but the Kingsmen fell to Whittier, 16-13, Saturday night in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener because the offense sputtered.
Cal Lutheran (1-2) led, 13-9, until Steve Luce connected with Otis Carmichael on a 44-yard touchdown pass play with 9 minutes 38 seconds to play. Luce completed 20 of 37 passes for 328 yards, but the Kingsmen kept him from throwing a scoring pass until the one to Carmichael.
Ryan Geisler, who missed six field-goal attempts last week in Cal Lutheran's double-overtime loss to Pacific Lutheran, missed his only attempt against Whittier, from 37 yards with 3:26 to play.
Zack Hernandez hit Greg McAllister with a seven-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to give the Kingsmen a 13-9 lead. Hernandez completed 16 of 36 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Dorian Stitt, who averaged 100 yards rushing in Cal Lutheran's first two games, had 60 in 11 carries. Fredrik Nanhed had 25 yards in nine carries.
A 56-yard interception return by Whittier's Karimu Williams in the last minute of the first quarter opened the scoring. Hernandez brought Cal Lutheran back with a 22-yard scoring pass to Josh Salic early in the second quarter, a score set up by a fumble recovery by Jason Cowles on the Whittier 24-yard line.
Whittier rushed for only 45 yards and missed two of three field-goal attempts.