DALLAS, Texas SMU's season opener at Baylor had a familiar, although not enjoyable, feeling to it.
The Mustangs opened on the road in a primetime matchup against a Big 12 opponent. Last year, it was a 46-14 loss to Texas A&M. Veteran starting quarterback Kyle Padron, who has since transferred, was benched after throwing interceptions on SMU's first two possessions.
Last Sunday, it was a 59-24 blowout loss at Baylor. Garrett Gilbert, a former starter at Texas making his SMU debut, also threw two interceptions. He was eventually pulled from the game, but at least he didn't lose his starting job as Padron did.
So things could have been worse. The moral is that things can get better, starting with Saturday's home opener against Stephen F. Austin.
"We just preach all the time, it's just one game," SMU coach June Jones said. "Sure, we're disappointed and we didn't play the way that we think we're capable of playing, but it's tough to win on the road no matter where you go. You have to do everything right to win on the road."
SMU started doing things right after that A&M loss last year and eventually wound up in its third straight bowl game. The Mustangs beat Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The road is a little tougher in 2012 with two more games against Big 12 opponents, TCU and A&M, before starting Conference USA play. But at least the comeback road is one SMU is familiar with.
"We don't plan on laying down or having a bad year by any means," guard Blake McJunkin said. "We've got a tough non-conference schedule and a tough slate to prepare us for conference and we're going to have tough conference games as well. But we believe we if can compete and win against these tough teams, we'll be well prepared for conference play."
Against Baylor, SMU made the typical mistakes of a team having a bad day on the road: penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, etc.
The biggest problem SMU had was stopping Baylor's passing game. The Mustangs allowed 393 yards and five touchdowns to a talented group of receivers.
While SMU's secondary seemed overmatched at times, defensive coordinator Tom Mason said it was more a problem of not blitzing with enough intensity to pressure the throws.
"I was happy with the secondary. I thought they played solid in that game," Mason said. "That's a tough test right out of the box. Again, that's our first chance to go and obviously it got away from us a little bit."
Videotape of the Baylor game should prove to be a valuable teaching tool.
"At the end of the day, it's all technique errors, things that are very correctable," safety Ryan Smith said.
"They've got a great bunch of receivers and I think they'll have a lot of success this year. But at the same time we beat ourselves a lot of plays with alignment, technique and just mistakes that we can't have down the road."
SMU's offense made its share of mistakes, but also had moments to build on. Running back Zach Line rushed 25 times for 135 carries. Gilbert completed 34 of 59 passes for 286 yards and wasn't sacked.
In all, SMU generated 507 yards of offense while working with almost a completely new offensive line.
The Mustangs may need to duplicate that production minus the mistakes against an SFA team that runs a proficient spread offense. The Lumberjacks scored nearly 50 points in their opener, a 49-14 win over Southwestern Oklahoma.
"Offensively, we just caught a lot of bad breaks," McJunkin said. "There were a lot of good things on the tape. We ran the ball pretty well. Zach was a big part of that, but for the guys up front to be playing together for the first time as a unit, I thought we did pretty well. We've got stuff to improve on, obviously."
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire