Stanford escapes trip to Washington despite red zone struggles

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Every time Stanford ventures in to the red zone, it's completely appropriate for "The Twilight Zone" theme song to start playing.

That's simply how bad -- or horrific if you're a Cardinal fan -- the team has been when they've reached the opponent's 25-yard line. The season-long struggles continued on Saturday as Stanford narrowly escaped with a 20-13 win over Washington to even its Pac-12 record up at 1-1 on the season.

Fittingly enough, after a missed field goal and fumble inside the red zone on Stanford's previous two drives in the second half, it was a Kevin Hogan bootleg keeper that provided the winning score from five yards out.

While Stanford wound up winning on the scoreboard, the many NFL scouts in attendance in Seattle also came out a winner after seeing a bevy of top prospects in action.

The star of the night, despite being on the losing end for the first time this season, was Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson. The junior was a playmaking machine all afternoon, scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery and forcing another fumble when the Cardinal were in the red zone. He even showed off his versatility not just by playing running back, but also a little safety.

Fellow front-seven studs Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton also impressed against a quality offensive line. The pair came into the game one-two in the country in sacks and caused havoc nearly every snap. While their numbers were a bit inflated thanks to a subpar set of opponents, scouts saw them make plays against some future NFL linemen and harass Hogan all day.

Stanford's Ty Montgomery was once again a key part of his team's win with contributions on special teams, running the ball and in the passing game. He averaged 12.7 yards a carry in Wildcat/Fly sweep situations and also caught a touchdown pass. Washington corner Marcus Peters did a pretty good job on Montgomery, but the threat of the speedy wide receiver seemed to open things up underneath for Hogan when dropping back to pass.

Despite losing a number of draft picks in the spring and a handful of others to graduation, Stanford's defense also stepped up with another quality performance that should keep its numbers among the best in the nation. The front seven shut down the Huskies' running game and limited the team to just 179 yards total. The only Washington offensive drive of note went 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, but otherwise yards were hard to come by.

David Shaw's squad proved its defense was a force to be reckoned on Saturday. The offense? Well, Stanford will certainly be working even harder in the coming weeks when it reaches the red zone.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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