Illinois senior kicker Derek Dimke never much needed to get over it.

Illinois senior kicker Derek Dimke never much needed to get over it.

The Rockford Boylan High School graduate rarely missed a kick, ranking fourth nationally among active kickers by converting 85.7 percent of his field-goal attempts, a number that makes him the most accurate in school history. Dimke made his first seven field goals this season and 10 straight dating to last year, but it came to an end on that snowy night at Penn State.

It seemed stacked against Dimke. A snowstorm earlier in the day. Officials who allowed a barrage of snowballs from Paternoville with some of the snowy artillery landing close to Dimke's feet. Then he missed a 42-yarder on the last play of the game that would have forced overtime.

"I would be fooling if I said it wasn't a tough few days after that,'' said his father, Tim. "As I thought about it, since his freshman year in high school, it now takes two hands to count the number that he's missed. This is a new experience for him.''

Just like the rest of the Illini, the best advice is to forget about it and move on. Riding a four-game losing streak that soured a promising season and left coach Ron Zook as a long shot to return, Illinois hosts No. 15 Wisconsin on senior day in Memorial Stadium Saturday.

For Dimke, it's been a memorable career after taking over the position midway through his sophomore season. He's made 36 of 42 field-goal attempts in his career and all 84 extra-point kicks.

Dimke had kicked into a wind but never snowballs, he said, or even kicked on a snowy day, and everybody wants a chance on the last play of the game.

"I'd love another opportunity,'' he said. "Unfortunately, you probably only get one or two of those in a career. You learn more from a miss or a loss than a make or a win.

"I learned to trust myself. I went out there thinking don't step inside, keep my arm up, thinking about the process instead of just kicking the ball.''

The miss gave Joe Paterno his 409th win -- the most in major-college history -- and last win in his career.

"I came off field afterwards thinking it's not always about me,'' Dimke said. "I have to trust that God has a plan for whatever the situation. I think there was something bigger going on than me missing or making that kick.''

Then there's the next step, said Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, one of Dimke's mentors.

"If you're in it long enough, you'll miss important kicks,'' he said. "That's just the way it goes. If you question your ability, you will compound your mistakes. You have to move on.''

After the season, Dimke will have a chance to move on to the NFL, Cundiff said, because Dimke has the talent, but it's also about timing and demand.

Just going by the numbers, it's easier to land a job as U.S. senator (100) than NFL placekicker (32).

When it comes to the NFL, there must be a demand and a team to choose youth over an available veteran, Cundiff said.

"He has the talent as long as everything works out,'' Cundiff said. "He's an elite-level kicker. I'm sure he'll be invited to the NFL combine. He has to perform well there, but there also has to be a need.''

Dimke also averaged 63.3 yards per attempt on kickoffs this season with 13 touchbacks in 47 kickoffs.

"Derek is a guy that's mature enough,'' said Zook, a former NFL special teams coach. "It's being in the right place at the right time. When you get in that right place, you've got to make things happen.''

Agents have called the Dimke family, who will make those decisions after the Illini play in a bowl game. If this football thing doesn't work out, Dimke is a two-time academic all-Big Ten selection in finance.

One option in the future might be athletic administration, said his father. Maybe someday Dimke would counsel a kicker.

John Supinie can be reached at

Illinois (6-4, 2-4) vs. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium (62,670), Champaign
Series record: Illinois leads 36-34-7
Last meeting: Wisconsin 27-17 (2008)
Rankings: Wisconsin No. 15
Coaches: Ron Zook, 34-49 in seventh year at Illinois, 57-63 in 10th year overall; Bret Bielema, 571-8 in sixth year at Wisconsin and overall.
NCAA rankings: Illinois offense -- rushing 38th, 182.3; passing 83rd, 201.4; scoring 78th, 25.0; total 65th, 383.7. Illinois defense -- rushing 23rd, 114.9; passing 9th, 173.4; scoring 12th, 18.6; total 9th, 288.3. Wisconsin offense -- rushing 10th, 250.1; passing 44th, 248.9; scoring 4th, 46.5; total 7th, 499.0. Wisconsin defense -- rushing 47th, 134.1; passing 2nd, 146.3; scoring 5th, 15.8; total 6th, 280.4.

Notable: The Illini haven't won since a 41-20 victory at Indiana on Oct. 8 made them bowl-eligible for the second straight season. . . Linebacker Trulon Henry, injured in a shooting last weekend, is expected to be one of 15 players honored on senior day. . . Illini junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus is one of five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the best defensive player. He leads the nation with 12.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. . . Dimke ranks ninth all-time at Illinois with 192 points, just ahead of Red Grange (186). . . Wisconsin running back Montee Ball set a Big Ten record with 27 touchdowns this season. He leads the Big Ten with 1,242 yards rushing. . . Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson leads the Big Ten in passing with 2,416 yards with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's on pace to set the NCAA record in pass efficiency.

Quotable: "We have to make a few changes. If we keep doing the same thing, we'll probably get the same results.'' -- Illini coach Ron Zook.

Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 10