CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Pat Grace threw two long touchdown passes to Jarred Herring to spark a second-quarter burst that carried Northern Iowa to a 40-15 victory over Maine on Saturday in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Derrick Law ran for two touchdowns and Corey Lewis became Northern Iowa's career rushing leader while also scoring a TD for the third-seeded Panthers (11-2), who improved to 9-0 in first-round playoff games in the UNI-Dome. They'll host New Hampshire in a quarterfinal game next Saturday.
Maine (8-5) stayed with the Panthers until UNI scored 16 points in just 5 minutes late in the first half to break a 7-7 tie.
Herring got behind the defense and Grace hit him in stride on a 42-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 and Northern Iowa got a safety when Maine quarterback Michael Brusko slipped and fell in the end zone.
That came after two false start penalties and a sack moved Maine back to its own 2-yard line.
Three plays after Maine's free kick, Grace looked as if he was going to run, then noticed Herring running free and hit him with a 55-yard touchdown pass, making it 23-7 with 2:51 left in the half.
Grace finished 15-of-24 for 229 yards and one interception and added 54 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Lewis carried 14 times for 75 yards and scored on a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter, three plays after De'Veon Harris' interception. He ran his career total to 3,886 yards, breaking the school record of 3,835 set by Jeff Stovall from 1993-96.
Law finished it off with a 10-yard TD run late.
Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley Conference co-champion, took a 7-0 lead on Law's 2-yard TD run. Maine capitalized on Tyrell Jones' punt block to tie it on Derek Session's 1-yard run at the 10:16 mark in the second quarter.
But the Black Bears didn't score again until Brusko threw an 10-yard touchdown pass to Session with 5:49 left. By then, the Panthers led 33-7.
Northern Iowa intercepted Brusko four times, sacked him three times and held Maine to 103 yards through the first three quarters. Brusko finished 15-of-23 for 180 yards.
Maine ended up beginning and finishing its season in Iowa. The Black Bears lost to Iowa 46-3 in Iowa City in their opener.