Iowa City, IA (Sports Network) - Iowa blocked two field goal attempts from Northern Iowa kicker Billy Hallgren in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, helping to preserve a 17-16 victory for the 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes over the Panthers at Kinnick Stadium.
With Iowa (1-0) ahead, 17-16, with just over two minutes remaining and the Panthers backed up to their own eight-yard line, Northern Iowa quarterback Pat Grace quickly moved his squad to midfield after completing several passes, then converted a 3rd-and-9 by hitting D.J. Hord with a 16-yard pass completion to the Iowa 36. A seven-yard completion and a six-yard Carlos Anderson run moved the ball to the 23, and UNI called timeout with seven seconds left to get the field-goal unit set up.
Hallgren's attempt from 40 yards out was blocked by Broderick Binns, but the ball did not cross the line of scrimmage, and Ryan Mahaffey recovered for the visitors. After much deliberation by the officials, the ruling was the Panthers maintained possession with one second to go, giving Northern Iowa one more try at a game-winning field goal. Hallgren came back onto the field and from the right hash mark had a 41-yard try blocked, this time by Jeremiha Hunter. Time expired on the play, allowing Iowa to hold on for a 17-16 win.
Ricky Stanzi threw for 242 yards on 22-of-34 efficiency with one touchdown pass -- a six-yard strike to Tony Moeaki early in the fourth quarter which proved to be the game-winning score.
"We had one great half of our offense but we need to improve because we can't just expect to play one good half and win," Stanzi said. "When we did need to step up the offense did a good job. The defense was solid the whole game and we just need to put more points on the board to help them out."
Moeaki had 10 catches for 83 yards, and Adam Robinson rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for Iowa, which has won seven of their last eight games dating back to last season.
Pat Grace finished 23-of-37 passing for 270 yards and a score for Northern Iowa (0-1), which fell to 1-14 all-time against Iowa and was bidding for its first win over the Hawkeyes since 1898. The Panthers were ranked No. 4 in the Top-25 Sports Network FCS poll coming in.
Anderson carried the ball 24 times for 75 yards, and Mahaffey had a 14-yard touchdown grab for the Panthers. Jarred Herring added six catches for 100 yards in defeat.
Iowa opened the scoring on its first possession of the contest when Daniel Murray booted a 39-yard field goal, capping a 14-play, 52-yard drive. Stanzi's fumble later in the opening quarter led to Hallgren's 39-yard effort with 4:22 remaining that tied things.
Early in the second stanza, the Panthers got the ball back inside their own 10-yard line and moved the ball with ease against the Hawkeyes defense. Grace hit Maurice Turner with a six-yard pass to convert a third down and short situation, taking it to the Iowa 27. A steady diet of ground game by Anderson took it to the nine. Then facing a 3rd-and-8 after a five-yard penalty moved it back to the 14, Grace found Mahaffey in the end zone for the touchdown with 5:40 remaining in the half, which was the score heading into the intermission.
Herring fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half for UNI, but Paki O'Meara had it stripped on the next play and the Panthers got it back. A 50- yard Grace-to-Herring connection put the visitors on the Iowa 17 which led to a 34-yard Hallgren field goal and a 13-3 lead.
Iowa, however responded when Robinson burst up the middle for a 11-yard touchdown run to narrow the deficit to three in the early stages of the third quarter.
Trailing 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, Iowa struck for seven on a well- orchestrated seven-play, 73-yard drive. With the Hawkeyes facing a 3rd-and-11 on the UNI 45, Stanzi hit Derrell Johnson-Koulianos with a 22-yard strike to move the chains. Then after another completion and a hard 10-yard run by Robinson moved the ball to the six, Stanzi connected with Moeaki in the corner of the end zone. After a short official review, the play was upheld and the Hawkeyes went in front 17-13 after the extra point by Murray.
Hallgren's third field goal of the game, this one from 39 yards, away drew Northern Iowa to within a point with 4:26 left to play.
Iowa was unable to generate any significant offense on its next possession and was forced to punt and pinned the Panthers inside their own 10-yard line with just over two minutes remaining.
Iowa will play at Iowa State on September 12, while Northern Iowa hosts South Dakota.
09/05 18:01:29 ET