June Jones has said from day one that it was a work in progress, his young team learning how to win again.
The Mustangs took nationally ranked and undefeated Tulsa to the wire, while it was evident that Jones wasn't pleased with moral victories, the veteran coach had reason to be pleased with several phases of the game.
SMU led Tulsa several times in the second half and was in the game at the end during their last possession of the game before dropping a heartbreaking 37-31 decision to the Hurricane.
"I told them I'm proud that I was the one teaching them how to win," Jones told his team after the disappointing loss. "I feel bad for the seniors that were the first game that we played for sixty minutes, hung in there until the end. Even though it wasn't pretty, we wished we did things better, we hung in there until the end."
Tulsa trailed the Mustangs 31-24 going into the fourth quarter of play, a position that SMU has rarely itself this season. Perhaps the play of the game for the Tulsa Hurricanes was a 33 yard touchdown pass from David Johnson to Trae Johnson on a crucial fourth and 21.
"We had a young kid in there," Jones said. "We learn as freshman, he learns that he shouldn't be up that tight on him, he won't do that again. They made the play, let's leave it at that."
True freshman Bo Levi Mitchell had perhaps his best game of the year, who was 19-34 for 318 yards and four touchdowns, including a 77 yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
Tulsa continued to bring a blitz package at Mitchell towards the end of the game, leading to his only interception of the night late in the fourth quarter.
SMU showed determination, never giving up, having a chance to win the game during their last possession.
The Mustangs drove the length of the field; two dropped passes one by true freshman Cole Beasley in the end zone and one by Sanders ended the drive.
"I thought Cole really grew up tonight," Mitchell said after the game. "He had a break out game for us. He is beating himself up right now over the dropped one in the end zone, he can't do that, he had a great game."
Sanders had six catches for 132 yards, his ninth career 100-yard receiving game which ties Emanuel Tolbert for the SMU career record. It is also Sanders fifth 100-yard game this season, tying the SMU record held by Jerry LeVias with five in 1968.