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Can Cornhuskers rebound after late collapse at Virginia Tech?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

In the estimation of Nebraska defensive ends coach John Papuchis, the Nebraska defense played well on all but three of its 75 snaps against Virginia Tech.

Breakdowns on those three plays ultimately was the difference in Nebraska's disappointing 16-15 loss to the Hokies.

Papuchis told a group of Cornhusker fans at the weekly Big Red breakfast in Omaha, Neb., that the plays that haunted him included: a third-and-20 passing conversion on the opening series that led to a touchdown, the 46-yard run late in the second quarter that led to a field goal and Tyrod Taylor's miraculous 81-yard pass with 1:11 remaining that led to Virginia Tech’s game-winning touchdown.

"This was a great illustration for us,” he told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “It’s not what they did to us. It’s what we didn’t execute or did for ourselves.

“It’d be nice if I didn’t have to say, ‘Minus this play, minus that play.’”

Papuchis said the disappointment was evident after the game, but the Cornhuskers have rebounded with renewed purpose for Saturday's game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"There was a look of hurt and anger, and that’s the way it should be,” Papuchis said. “You want it to hurt because that means they understand the investment they’re putting in is worthwhile.

“I thought that part was awesome.”

Not many Cornhusker fans share that description for what happened in the final minutes against the Hokies.

“Our players were hurt by the loss and came back,” said Papuchis, noting Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices were the best he’s seen at Nebraska since his arrival.

“That’s not coach talk. That’s an honest observation.”

The Louisiana-Lafayette game will celebrate the Cornhuskers' tradition as the school notches its 300th consecutive sellout. But it will be just as interesting to see how the team puts aside that heartbreaking loss to get ready for the upcoming North Division race.

Papuchis also coaches the Cornhuskers' special teams and had an interesting description of why he has chosen junior Alex Henery as his punter over freshman Brett Maher.

The major reason is because the Cornhuskers employ freshman P.J. Mangieri as their long-snapper.

“I’ve got mouths to feed at home,” Papuchis said. “That’s a scary deal.”