LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Mike Riley wasn't feeling much better Monday about the stunning way Nebraska lost to BYU in his first game as Cornhuskers coach.
"For me personally, and I probably speak for our staff, those are hard to get over," he said. "It was a bitterly disappointing loss, and it kind of gets worse the next two mornings after, kind of waking up to it and all the different scenarios that pop into your head."
In his mind, Riley could replay over and over the 42-yard, end-of-the-game touchdown pass that beat the Cornhuskers 33-28. He could imagine a better result for his team if Tanner Mangum hadn't been allowed to roll out to open space and set up for a strong throw, or if one of his defenders hadn't been in the wrong place while trying to cover BYU receiver Mitch Mathews.
But Riley knows dwelling on that single play, and the loss, would be counterproductive with a home game this week against South Alabama serving as a tuneup for next week's trip to Miami.
Riley said he planned to "put that last game to bed a little bit" when he met with his players at practice.
"I sense they have a feeling like I do. It was really disappointing and it didn't have to be like that," he said. "But I don't think we're going to find a lot of guys with their heads down on this deal. I think they're excited because they know they did a lot of good things. That should build up some confidence in what we're capable of doing."
Nebraska will host a South Alabama team that opened with a 33-23 win over Gardner-Webb. The Jaguars' program was started in 2009 and has been playing in the Sun Belt Conference since 2012. South Alabama went 6-6 in the regular season last year and played in the postseason for the first time, losing to Bowling Green in the Camellia Bowl.
The Huskers will be without two and possibly three players because of injuries. Starting defensive end Jack Gangwish (elbow) could be out three weeks and co-No. 1 tight end David Sutton (severe ankle sprain) could be out two months. Punter Sam Foltz is week-to-week with a sprain to his left (non-kicking) ankle.
Riley said four of the five players who were suspended for the opener for breaking team rules will be back. One player must sit out one more game. Riley said he wouldn't identify that player until Thursday.
Receiver Brandon Reilly said he senses that his teammates will bounce back from the loss.
"We can only move forward and not let one game affect the rest of the season," he said. "We put a lot of work in the offseason. We can't let one game ruin everything."