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Notre Dame finds ways to win close games

Notre Dame has found the ways to win close games.

The Irish have won 10 of their last 11 games that have been decided by a touchdown or less.

But being able to pull out close games didn't always come easy for Notre Dame. The Irish went 2-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less when Brian Kelly first took over the program.

"I just think it happens over a period of time," Kelly said as the No. 22 Irish (3-1) get ready to play host to No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0) on Saturday. "You know, when we first got here I don't believe that we were able to win some of those games, and I think it's just a matter of time. We're four years into our program. Our kids believe that if they prepare the right way and they take care of the things that they're supposed to do that they have a belief.

"Look, it's the will to prepare, and it's the belief that they can win. You carry those with you. You still have to perform. We didn't perform late against Michigan; we lost the football game (41-30 loss Sept. 7). Even though we prepared and we believed you can win, you still have to perform. We were able to perform to win football games. But you have to have those two things. I know our guys have confidence that they can win each and every game they play, but they also know that they have to make plays."

Notre Dame began winning close games with a 15-12 victory over Pittsburh on Sept. 24, 2011, after beginning that season with a 23-20 loss to South Florida and a 35-31 loss to Michigan.

The Irish went on to win two more games in 2011 by a touchdown or less with a 24-17 victory over Wake Forest and a 16-14 win over Boston College. Notre Dame lost to Florida State 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl after that season, marking the last time the team lost in a game decidec by seven points or less.

Notre Dame scored wins of 20-13 over Purdue, 13-6 over Michigan, 20-13 in overtime over Stanford, 17-14 over BYU and 29-26 in triple overtime against Pittsburgh last season.

This season, the Irish defeated Purdue 31-24 on Sept. 14 and Michigan State 17-13 last Saturday.

Kelly said having those close wins to look back on has helped his team continue to come out ahead in those type of games.

"There's definitely a positive reinforcement in the belief that they can win," Kelly said. "Look, we've won a lot of football games, 15 out of the last 16 games, 10 in a row at home. Those things all go towards that belief that they can win. They believe that they can win no matter what the circumstances are. But again, I would caution you to say that it's still about you've got to make plays. We made a couple more plays at the end, and we'll have to make a couple more this weekend. But there is that belief system. There's no question that that foundation has been laid."

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