If once is a coincidence and twice makes for a trend, then consider Carolina's stagnant rushing attack nearing a bona fide quandary. UNC (0-2) barely eked out 57 yards on the ground, while the Badgers (3-0) nickeled and dimed the Tar Heels for 166 rushing yards, and consistent domination of the time clock.
"Part of it are the runners, part of it is the offensive line and part of it are the lead blockers," John Bunting said of UNC's anemic ground game.
And while the Tar Heels actually won the total offense battle by a 338-304 margin, much of UNC's yardage came in desperation mode on an 86-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that netted zero points.
The defensive standoff marked the fewest points the Tar Heels have allowed in a loss since dropping a 13-10 decision to Miami (Ohio) in 1998, and the fewest total points combined in a contest since UNC's 10-6 win over N.C. State also in 1998.
Wisconsin halfback Brian Calhoun, the nation's leading scorer, was good for 171 yards rushing and two more touchdowns to add to his NCAA-best 48 points. Calhoun scored from eight and four yards out to account for the Badgers' only touchdowns.
"He's a good running back," Chase Page said. "He's fast and he broke a couple of my tackles."
Other than that, UNC's defense managed to shut UW's prolific scoring offense down.
"We out-physicaled them tonight," Tommy Davis said. "We showed them. We stopped the run."
The Tar Heels got pressure on UW quarterback John Stocco, holding him to just 138 yards passing, while recording four sacks – their best output since tallying six at Duke last year. Page, Kyndraus Guy and Hilee Taylor all dropped Stocco, while Kareen Taylor and Larry Edwards shared in a sack.
"We stopped the run," Guy said. "I don't know what their passing total yards were, but we stopped it. What did they have, 60 points averaged per game? Holding them to 14, that's good. We're loving that right now."
Meanwhile, Matt Baker was solid once again, completing 16-of-37 passing attempts for 280 yards – with most coming while he was nursing sore ribs.
"I thought our quarterback was very gutty staying in there," Bunting said. "We need to protect him better, and we've got to get to the bottom of that."
Carolina's tailback tandem of Barrington Edwards and Cooter Arnold were once again rendered virtually useless – although the Big Ten officiating crew did seem to hamstring the Tar Heels, whistling them 12 times for 115 yards.
Every time a UNC runner did manage to break loose, it was seemingly brought back by a penalty.
Even Bunting was flagged for an unsportsmanlike violation in the first quarter.
"That was far too many," Bunting said. "I don't think we've ever had this many in my four years here."
The kickoff was delayed approximately 20 minutes due to lightning in the area.
"I don't think it affected our players and I didn't try to use it as motivation," said UW coach Barry Alvarez, whose father passed away this week. "This has been an very emotional week. I'm totally zapped."