CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Northern Iowa scored on four of its first five possessions, then held on to beat North Dakota State 23-13 Saturday in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Northern Iowa (5-2, 3-1), which has won three straight games, intercepted North Dakota State quarterback Ryan Mertens four times and recovered a fumble. The Panthers kept the Bison out of the end zone until midway though the fourth quarter when Mertens hit Kole Heckendorf on a 7-yard fade.
North Dakota State (3-4, 1-3) lost for the fourth time in five games.
Pat Grace threw for 149 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game in the second half with a leg injury. He completed 12 of 23 passes, including a 35-yard touchdown to D.P. Eyman early in the second quarter, helping the Panthers to a 23-6 lead at the half.
Corey Lewis scored UNI's first touchdown on a 25-yard run with 5:38 left in the first quarter. It came on the first play after Jarred Herring's 70-yard kickoff return. Lewis finished with 64 yards on 13 carries.
Billy Hallgren kicked three field goals in the first half, including a career-best 47-yarder. His final kick of the half, a 21-yarder with five seconds left, capped a six-play, 50-yard drive.
NDSU struggled offensively all game. The Bison came in averaging 178 yards rushing but were held to just 99 yards on the ground. Pat Paschall ran 16 times for 57 yards.
Heckendorf scored NDSU's only touchdown with 9:09 left to play. He finished with 55 yards on five catches.
Mertens was 14-for-33 for 128 yards.
Shawn Bibeau kicked two field goals for the Bison.