Missed tying field goal dooms Illini

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — This gave new meaning to an iced kicker.

As time ran off the clock at a snowy Beaver Stadium, Illinois kicker Derek Dimke's game-tying 42-yard field goal attempt bounced off the icy right upright and plummeted to the field on an unseasonably frigid Saturday, sending the Illini home with a 10-7 defeat at No. 21 Penn State.

"That's my job and I didn't do my job today," said Dimke, who had made 10 consecutive field goals. "It's the type of kick I dream of: At Penn State, in the snow. It doesn't get any better."

It's hard to imagine it getting much worse for the Illini (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten), who now have dropped three straight after a pleasantly surprising 6-0 start.

Dimke shouldn't feel the sole responsibility for this one, as Illini coaches acknowledged.

"That's a tough loss," coach Ron Zook said. "All of us are going to struggle for a few hours."

The offense was frozen for the better part of three quarters and couldn't overcome four turnovers. The defense went really cold at the wrong moment. A few controversial calls and special teams blunders — other than the last field goal — also caused Illinois' unraveling.

Although relentless through the game, the Illini defense allowed Penn State (8-1, 5-0) to drive 80 yards in the final 3 minutes, 5 seconds for the lead. A controversial third-down end-zone interference call against cornerback Justin Green kept the drive alive at the Illini 17. Four plays later Silas Redd scored from 3 yards out.

Then, with 1:08 left, the Illini showed some life in driving from their 17 to within field-goal range.

There was plenty else that didn't go right for Illinois:

•Nearing halftime in a scoreless game Jason Ford's 4-yard run into the end zone was nullified because of a motion penalty.

Two plays later, Dimke lined up for a 27-yard field goal, but holder Tim Russell bobbled the wet ball and threw an interception.

Early in the fourth quarter, Penn State blocked a punt and took over on the Illinois 31. Penn State hit a 30-yard field goal with 7 minutes left to draw within 7-3.

"Penn State has a real good defense, but it's frustrating," receiver A.J. Jenkins said. "We have all the weapons, all the gadgets you want to have and you don't put up points."

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase finished with a season-low 63 yards on 9-of-16 passing, while Reilly O'Toole, who relieved him frequently in the second half, connected on 4 of 7 for 31 yards.

The Illini, who had minus-5 total yards in the first quarter, failed to earn a first down until midway through the second. They scored on Scheelhaase's 10-yard pass to Spencer Harris for a 7-0 lead in the third.

"Words can't explain it," Jenkins said. "It (stinks) bad."


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