MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State didn't take too kindly to being labeled three-touchdown underdogs heading into Saturday's game, but one of the primary reasons Wisconsin had been held in such high regard is its potent rushing attack.
Normally a well-oiled machine that puts the Badgers' offense on its back, the duo of Melvin Gordon and James White couldn't find overwhelming success against the Nittany Lions. Entering Saturday, the tandem combined for more than 2,500 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns for Wisconsin, but Gordon and White totaled 147 rushing yards against the Lions — a relatively low number considering their dominance this season.
In the four games prior to Saturday night, White averaged 152.3 yards per game, and while Gordon accumulated a seemingly effective 91 yards against the Nittany Lions, the tailback didn't make the kind of impact he normally does.
Because of the running game's inability to gain traction, Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Joel Stave was forced to throw the ball 53 times, which is hardly part of Wisconsin's winning formula.
Penn State linebacker Mike Hull said the Lions' defense was confident heading into defending the Badgers' running game.
"We knew we could stop the run, especially the power run game," Hull said. "So we were dedicated to that and made them one-dimensional, and that helped us."
Lions win first true road game
They had several cracks at it, but the Lions finally got business taken care of in a true road atmosphere this season.
Penn State already won away from Beaver Stadium this year with its season-opening neutral site win at MetLife Stadium against Syracuse, but in road games at the opposing team's home setting, Penn State was winless.
Demoralizing defeats at Indiana and Ohio State were the Lions' worst losses of the year, but Bill O'Brien felt his team was becoming close to getting over the hump.
"I think it depends on how you define playing well on the road," O'Brien said after the game. "We've lost, so if you define it strictly by that, then we haven't played well on the road.
"I think we were close. We needed to eliminate mistakes. I don't think we eliminated all those mistakes tonight, but we did enough."
Zwinak hits century mark in fourth straight game
It seems like quite some time ago that Zach Zwinak garnered just three carries for eight yards at Ohio State.
But it's just another example of how much one month can change things. After another seldom-used showing against Illinois to open Penn State's slate of November games, Zwinak went on a roll as Saturday night was the fourth game in a row where he surpassed 100 yards rushing.
In fact, Zwinak's 115 yards on the ground against Wisconsin was his lowest total in the last four contests (150 against Minnesota, 149 against Purdue and Nebraska).
Zwinak didn't find the end zone at Camp Randall, but his 61-yard draw play toward the end of regulation stood out in his otherwise decent totals.
While untimely fumbles seemed to highlight Zwinak's season at times, the junior bulldozer finished the year just 11 yards shy of his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Zwinak also finished the year with 12 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Bill Belton, who ended the year with 803 rushing yards and five touchdowns, received all of just three carries on Saturday.
No hair don't care?
Jumping, chanting and things of that nature are expected in the winning team's locker room, especially after an upset win like Penn State pulled off.
But hair cutting? Now that's a bit out of the ordinary.
Yet, that's what happened after the game, as linebacker Glenn Carson grabbed scissors and cut the long hair of fellow seniors and roommates Adam Gress and Ty Howle.
The linebacker said Gress and Howle agreed if the Lions won, Carson could cut their hair.
"Their hair has been bothering me for a long time," Carson said. "It was a pretty cool moment...They're men of their word."
John McGonigal can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @jmcgonigal9.