The worst possible way to react to Kansas University's sloppy, 37-31 double-overtime loss at Toledo would be to serve as an apologist with soft serves such as, "The Jayhawks are young," or, "Toledo has won 35 of its last 37 games at the Glass Bowl. It's a tough place to play."
True, KU is young, and Toledo seldom loses at home. Neither factor absolves the Jayhawks. The reality is Kansas lost to a team that isn't very good, one week after barely defeating another that isn't very good.
Toledo's robotic quarterback, Clint Cochran, isn't close to being Big 12-caliber, and the Rockets' defense didn't have many players who would get playing time in the Big 12. The only honest way to view that game is as an opportunity lost for a KU team that needs six victories for a chance at earning a trip to a third bowl game in four years.
The worst way to rebound from that opportunity lost in preparing for South Florida, which visits Memorial Stadium this coming Saturday night, would be to play not to lose, to try to script things to ensure that Kerry Meier doesn't throw four more interceptions and muff another handoff.
Nobody improves at anything in life without being taken out of his or her comfort level. Making things too easy for Meier would be slowing his growth rate at a time it needs to speed up.
Against Toledo, Meier threw 41 passes and was credited with 19 rushes, meaning he was a central figure in 60 plays. For comparison purposes, consider that KU ran only 51 plays from scrimmage in the opening week of the season.
That's a heavy work load for a red-shirt freshman quarterback. And as long as Meier is fully recovered from an injury that left him without full range of motion late in the Toledo game, KU coach Mark Mangino would be wise to continue asking a lot of Meier.
If Mangino and staff had noticed live what they noticed on film, that Meier's fourth-quarter injury kept him from throwing with good mechanics, then maybe the play-calling would have been a little different. Maybe Meier wouldn't have been asked to throw a fade that was intercepted in the second overtime.
Meier could have been more honest with the coaching staff when asked about his arm, but lying to stay in a game sure beats begging out of one.
"He's a tough customer," Mangino said. "That type of mentality in the long run will benefit us."
So will continuing to put Meier in the fire. He can practice scanning the field and not locking in on his intended receiver until his hair turns gray, but there's nothing like doing it at game speed with game adrenaline flowing.
Just as Toledo did, South Florida will key on Jon Cornish, and the only way Meier can help Cornish get a little breathing room is to continue tricking the defense with his masterful ball fakes and to develop into a more consistent passer.
Based on its 3-0 start, plus looking back on a 45-14 blowout victory over then-nationally ranked Louisville in its fourth game of the 2005 season, South Florida should be a tougher opponent than Toledo. Five turnovers isn't going to cut it against the Bulls, who are in their second season playing in the Big East. Running for cover by trying not to turn it over isn't going to get it done either.