The white air-filled thunder-sticks slowly stopped thundering as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga fans began to see Buster Skrine splayed out on the Finley Stadium turf.

Athletic trainers rushed to him. Another trainer ran back to the bench to grab a red bag of medical equipment.

The blow Skrine absorbed from Tony Washington on a kickoff return separated him from the ball, dislocated his elbow and devastated an already sinking UTC sideline.

"I was sitting over there saying, 'C'mon, Buster, get up, buddy,'" receiver and punt returner Joel Bradford said after the Mocs' 42-41 loss to Appalachian State. "He's our captain. He's one of the best defensive players I've been around.

"It shouldn't have made an effect, but it did. He's a great player and it obviously hurt us."

Trailing by 14 points after being down 28-7 at halftime, the Mountaineers recovered the fumble with 13:42 to play. They scored three plays later to pull within 35-28 as part of their 28-0 run.

Skrine's absence forced true freshman Chaz Moore into action as a cornerback - a position Skrine could potentially play as a pro - and Brian Sutherland at Skrine's return position.

"Buster was out of it even before the arm," Huesman said. "He just wasn't Buster."

And Huesman said that one fumble didn't cost UTC the game. A variety of mistakes, errors and bad luck and good play by ASU all contributed.

"He took a shot and I don't think Jim Brown would have held to that ball," Huesman said. "I don't fault him for fumbling, and I hate that he got hurt.

"That one didn't lose the game for us, but it was tough times."

Skrine is expected to miss at least the next three weeks.

PAT problems

The Mocs missed three extra points in the first half that would have extended their lead at the break and potentially were the difference in the game.

Mike Hammons - the punter - handled all of the early kicking duties because freshman kicker Nick Pollard had a hip-flexor injury and a swollen knee.

Hammons nailed a 29-yard field goal three minutes into the game and all seemed well. But he bounced his first extra-point attempt off the right upright. He made his next. But he missed another wide left out of a bad hold after UTC went ahead 22-7.

Pollard felt well enough to attempt an extra point. But his attempt missed as well, leaving UTC with a 28-7 lead. Pollard came back and converted to give UTC a 35-14 lead just six seconds into the final quarter.

But when UTC scored the final touchdown of the game, the B.J. Coleman scamper with 51 seconds left, neither kicker got a chance. Huesman was determined to go for two points.

"There was no doubt in my mind that we needed to go for two right there," Huesman said. "I didn't do it because we missed three PATs. Were you guys watching our defense run out there?

"If we would have kicked the PAT, we would have made it and gone to overtime, but I don't think we could have stopped them in overtime."

Flattened by Fletcher

ASU senior defensive end Jabari Fletcher sensed the Mocs offensive line getting tired. He could tell that he was getting closer and closer to quarterback Coleman on every play.

When he finally met the quarterback, Fletcher delivered a blow and separated Coleman from the ball. Still on his feet, Fletcher found the ball and pounced on it.

Two plays later, ASU tied the game at 35 with 11:01 to play.

Fletcher finished with two recovered fumbles, two sacks and three tackles.

"I noticed a big change because we started humming like we had been in camp," Fletcher said. "Nothing they were doing was spectacular. It was us."

Extra points

Since 1998, ASU has never come back from 21 or more points to win a game as it did Saturday. ... UTC freshman tailback Keon Williams from Red Bank did not play, due in part to a slightly injured ankle. ... Junior defensive tackle La'Nard Carr suffered a concussion, thinning out the Mocs' thinnest position. He missed a good portion of preseason camp with an ankle injury.