STANFORD -- Stanford claims to welcome the nerve-fraying finishes that were so prevalent last season on its drive to the Rose Bowl.
"The more difficult the games are," linebacker Shayne Skov said, "the better we'll become."
By that measure, the Cardinal, which remained No. 5 in the latest Associated Press rankings, should improve by leaps and bounds this week.
Only a sensational performance by receiver Ty Montgomery and an overturned call in the final minutes allowed Stanford to repel Washington 31-28 on Saturday night and stay on pace for the conference title.
Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, had a 39-yard TD catch late in the first half and set up a third touchdown with a 72-yard kickoff return.
In all, he gained 290 all-purpose yards, a career high but well short of the school record of 379 yards held by Glyn Milburn.
"I'm not trying to think as an individual right now," Montgomery said. "I'm just really glad we pulled out a win."
But Stanford (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) didn't secure its 13th consecutive victory until the replay booth official determined UW quarterback Keith Price's fourth-down pass to Kevin Smith hit the ground at Stanford's 33-yard line with just over a minute left.
The pass was ruled a completion on the field. Had that call been upheld, the Huskies would have been in range to attempt a game-tying field goal with plenty of time to get closer.
"From my vantage point it looked like it was pretty hard to overturn it," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.
The Huskies (4-1, 1-1) had 489 total yards to Stanford's 284. They flummoxed Stanford on third down, contained tailback Tyler Gaffney and limited quarterback Kevin Hogan to 105 yards passing.
But the combination of Montgomery's brilliance, a fourth-quarter interception by linebacker A.J. Tarpley at Stanford's 5-yard line and the replay ruling was the difference.
Last season, Stanford was 8-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. This season, it's 1-0.
"This is the way it's going to be from here on out," coach David Shaw said.
"Their defensive line coach (former Washington assistant Randy Hart) was telling them to sit down," Sarkisian said on KJR radio during his postgame show, according to SportspressNW.com. "I guess that's how we play here at Stanford, so we'll have to prepare for that next time. At some point, we'll get repaid for it. That never serves a purpose for us, and we'll never do that."
Sarkisian didn't name names. Shaw was not available for comment.
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports.