Winning close games has become a badge of honor at Navy.
After Friday's 42-40 victory at South Alabama, the Midshipmen could cite their uncanny ability to do so as the reason for clinching another bowl berth their 11th in the last 12 years.
Many of those bowl trips can be attributed to Navy's ability to be disciplined and reliable in the clutch. Over those last 12 years, Navy has gone 36-22 in games decided by seven or fewer points.
In any given season, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo will repeat numerous times that the margin for error for his team is "razor thin." The evidence supports his claim.
In the last 11 years, only once has Navy won less than half of its games decided by seven or fewer points. In that season (2011), Navy went 2-5 in games decided by seven or fewer points, the difference between going to a bowl game and being home for the holidays as the Midshipmen finished 5-7.
Friday at South Alabama, Navy had to withstand three 2-point conversion tries by the Jaguars in the final minute (two successful attempts were negated by penalties) before Brendon Clements ended the hopes of South Alabama with an interception in the end zone.
"I know people say football is a game of inches," Clements said. "I think it's a game of centimeters."
With that comment, Clements demonstrated his firm grasp of what it takes to be successful at Navy.
Next: vs. Navy, Dec. 13.
BRIGHAM YOUNG (8-4)
Game: BYU 42, California 35. Christian Stewart threw for a career-high 433 yards and five touchdowns, including three in the final 17 minutes, to lead the Cougars to a come-from-behind victory in Berkeley. UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie caught the final two touchdown passes on plays covering 83 and 38 yards in the final 12 minutes and CB Mike Davis preserved the victory in the final minute with an interception after Cal reached the BYU 14.
Takeaway: It was the fourth straight win for BYU after four straight losses in October as the Cougars have flipped the narrative on what looked like a promising season gone bad. Considering that California fell to 5-7 with the loss, Stewart was overzealous in the postgame saying that the win showed that BYU "can play with anybody in the country." But it was a quality road victory against a team that had more to play for as a Bears' win would have clinched a bowl bid. It also was another impressive showing by Stewart who has thrown 14 touchdowns with one interception during the Cougars' four-game winning streak.
Next: Miami Beach Bowl, Dec. 22.
Game: Navy 42, South Alabama 40. Keenan Reynolds ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns to become the most prolific touchdown-scoring quarterback in FBS history and Navy withstood three two-point conversion attempts by South Alabama (two successful tries negated by penalties) in the final minute to clinch the program's 11th bowl berth in 12 years.
Takeaway: In an unfamiliar setting where Navy had never played, the Midshipmen nearly gave this one away as three lost fumbles in their own territory led to 17 points for the Jaguars. Navy dominated the middle periods, turning a 17-7 deficit into a 35-20 lead. But in the final 12 minutes, bowl-bound South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference scored three touchdowns, including two after Navy fumbles, to make it interesting.
Next: vs. Army, Dec. 13.
NOTRE DAME (7-5)
Game: USC 49, Notre Dame 14. Cody Kessler threw for 372 yards and six touchdowns, including five on consecutive possessions in the first half, as USC ran away with the Jeweled Shillelagh, winning by its second-largest margin in the 85-game series. Kessler became the first player in history to throw five touchdowns in a half against Notre Dame and six in a game against the Fighting Irish.
Takeaway: The implosion of the depleted defense of the Fighting Irish continued on Saturday as USC rang up the second most points it has ever scored against Notre Dame. And it could have been worse. On its last 21 snaps starting late in the third quarter, USC didn't throw a pass. "We got our butts beat, and it wasn't as close as the score," Brian Kelly said after his most decisive defeat as coach at Notre Dame. "I thought coach [Steve Sarkisian] was very generous today to keep running the football to keep the score where it was." That wasn't the only disturbing aspect for Notre Dame as QB Everett Golson (7-of-18, 75 yards, two turnovers) struggled and was replaced by Malik Zaire (9-of-20, 170 yards) who produced a touchdown in his first drive.