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No. 5 Notre Dame finds another way to win ugly

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No. 5 Notre Dame finds another way to win ugly

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.

``It goes to the toughness of our football team,'' Kelly said. ``They believe they are going to win. ``

Irish players say the difference is they believe in each other.

``Football is very unpredictable. You have your ups and your downs and the most important thing is staying together when we hit adversity and that's exactly what we did,'' linebacker Manti Te'o said.

After giving up a total of three touchdowns in six games - none in the previous four - the Irish defense gave up a pair of touchdowns in just 2:18 to let BYU get the lead. But there was never a sense of panic, even as the Irish continually made mistakes that kept them from regaining the lead.

``That's the difference between this year's team and last year's team,'' tight end Tyler Eifert said. ``We're only down a touchdown or a field goal and you've just got to grind it out. Find a way to make it happen.''

Now the Irish have to find a way to make it happen at Oklahoma, which has only lost four homes games in 14 seasons under coach Bob Stoops. Kelly's Cincinnati team lost 52-26 in 2008 to the then-No. 4 Sooners. Kelly said it's a tough place to play.

``The fans are right on top of you. They're very knowledgeable. It's just a good college environment and they're a really good football team,'' Kelly said.

Kelly said what he took away from that 2008 game was that there was still a gap between where the Bearcats and the Sooners. The Irish are hoping to show against Oklahoma they are true title contenders. Kelly said the Irish know they need to continue to improve, saying that's a good thing.

``If you're 7-0 and five in the country and you think you've arrived, then that's where as a coach and a team you're in peril,'' he said.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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