TOLEDO, OHIO — Kansas University's football team skipped shooting itself in the foot and just went straight for the heart.
Victory was within KU's fingertips at the Glass Bowl on Friday, but the Jayhawks proved more than once they didn't deserve to take it. Eventually, Kansas lost to Toledo, 37-31 in two overtimes, when Jalen Parmele broke several tackles and finished the game with a 25-yard touchdown run.
Toledo's players stormed the field, and KU's were left in shock at how ineffective it could be in the clutch.
"If you turn the ball over six times in a game," KU coach Mark Mangino said, "you deserve to lose."
It was actually five, but a devastating turnover in the first overtime could probably count as two. After KU's defense stopped the Rockets from getting any points in the first overtime, the Jayhawks (2-1) needed only a field goal to get the victory - and they started the possession within kicker Scott Webb's range.
But a muffed handoff between quarterback Kerry Meier and running back Jon Cornish resulted in a fumble that Toledo recovered. The Kansas victory - on the table and ready to be eaten - vanished in a stunning instant.
"It hit my hip," Cornish said. "I wasn't expecting him to hand it off."
Cornish said the call was for a run, and Mangino confirmed that the play call was "basic." But the most critical error in a game full of them swung the pendulum the other way.
"The way he handed it off," Cornish said, "it felt like a fake."
Kansas couldn't answer to the big blunder, as Meier threw an interception in the second overtime, his fourth pick of the night. Add to it multiple dropped passes, eight penalties worth 82 yards and not one takeaway by KU's defense, a disaster was imminent. It just took some extra football to get finalized.
The blunders dampered periodic bright spots among KU's team. Cornerback Aqib Talib returned from suspension and played well, breaking up a pass in the end zone during the first overtime. KU's defense held Toledo to 28 total yards and no first downs in the second half. And the Jayhawks did have 391 yards of total offense, though consistency was a problem for the second straight week.
0 Toledo first downs in the second half 2 Number of safeties - one by each team 3 Touchdown catches for Marcus Henry this season 5 KU turnovers - two of which came in overtime
Also lost was Meier's refusal to get rattled, particularly after his third interception was returned 84 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, putting Toledo up 31-23. Meier came out the next possession and led a nine-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dexton Fields with 3:55 to play. Meier then kept an option and dove into the end zone for a game-tying two-point conversion.
A glimpse of a great quarterback was there. But ugly examples of youth and inexperience sprouted up soon after.
"The game was a learning experience for Kerry," Mangino said. "He just has to learn to handle the ball more carefully."
Meier was 23-of-41 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He complemented his arm with 57 yards rushing, second to Cornish's 89 yards on 20 carries.
Cornish seemed to be keyed on throughout much of the game, and that stopped his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games at three.
"Teams don't like me," Cornish said. "They don't want me to get yards."
Kansas has eight days to sit in the soreness that Friday's loss brought, before tangling with South Florida on Sept. 23 at Memorial Stadium.
The "road dog" mentality KU tried to bring to Toledo had bite, but it had too much carelessness to go with it.
"We're going to have to learn some things, look at all the things we did wrong and make sure we correct them," said linebacker Mike Rivera, who had a team-high eight tackles. "We've still got a lot of games left. A lot of opportunities left."