SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame's victory over Brigham Young lacked the drama of the goal-line stand against Stanford, the defensive domination the Fighting Irish showed against Michigan and the excitement of their last-minute win over Purdue.
Yet just like in those three other games, the Irish found a way to win a close game, beating BYU 17-14 to move to 7-0 for the 25th time in school history and the first time since Tyrone Willingham's first year as coach in 2002. That squad won five games by a touchdown or less en route to a 10-3 season.
Notre Dame is 4-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season and has won seven straight such regular-season games dating back to last season, after going 2-5 in such games after Brian Kelly became coach in 2010. Those included losses to Tulsa and South Florida and a pair of last-minute losses to Michigan.
Notre Dame is finding ways to win ugly rather than lose ugly.
"I think it's just a toughness," said quarterback Tommy Rees, who has played a role in all but two of those games. "We've figured out how to play. We can close them out in the end."
The Irish were without starting quarterback Everett Golson against BYU. He was held out as a precaution after sustaining a concussion a week earlier against Stanford. Kelly said Sunday he expects Golson to be ready to play against No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1), but wants to see how he reacts to a full exertion workout Monday.
For a while Saturday it looked like Notre Dame's perfect season was in jeopardy. Trailing 14-7, the Irish turned to their running game and a tough defense to pull out the victory. Theo Riddick rushed for 143 yards and Cierre Wood ran for 114, as each ran for more yards than any other opponent had against the Cougars.
"I think controlling the football for us and playing great defense in the second half has been our formula for winning and we are not going to go away from that," Kelly said.
A 2-yard touchdown run by George Atikinson III with 12:52 gave the Irish the lead and allowed them to keep alive their hopes of ending a national championship drought that dates back to 1988. The victory marked just the third time the Irish have won under Kelly after trailing at halftime. The other two times were a week earlier, when they beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime after trailing 10-3 at halftime, and a 24-17 win against Wake Forest last season after falling behind 17-10.