Ducks hope to avoid a repeat of '06 letdown


Oregon is 3-0 and ranked at No. 13. Looking good, right?

Before thoughts about possible conference championships and bowl games, just remember last season.

The Ducks started out 4-0 and were ranked No. 11. Then they tumbled. Oregon wrapped up 7-6 and in fifth place in the Pac-10.

While brimming with confidence, the Ducks this season are keeping the unexpected national attention in perspective.

"Being confident is good, but you have to be humble and respect every team you play. I think that's where we are," running back Jonathan Stewart said.

Oregon headed into this season picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 in the preseason poll of media members who regularly cover the conference. USC was the top selection.

This week, conference play begins.

The Ducks visit Stanford (1-2) this Saturday. The Cardinal, who won just one game last season, blanked San Jose State 37-0 last weekend.

"We have to guard against taking a step back," coach Mike Bellotti said. "Certainly there's a lot of things we can do to get better."

It gets harder from there. Oregon hosts No. 6 California in a nationally televised game on Sept. 29 before a bye.

The Ducks host top-ranked USC on Oct. 27.

Quarterback Dennis Dixon, who is pacing an offense that's averaging 519.33 yards and leading the Pac-10, said the Ducks are finally coming into their own.

"We've had some of the guys on this team for a lot of years," Dixon said. "It's about time we start clicking."

Scouting Stanford

Oregon faces a Stanford team with something the Cardinal haven't had in quite a while.

A win.

The Cardinal are coming off a 37-0 victory over San Jose State last Saturday, their first shutout in more than a decade. Stanford had not won since last Nov. 11, when they defeated Washington 20-3 at Husky Stadium &

it was their only win last season.

"It was a good confidence builder," new coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The atmosphere has been a lot better."

But the victory was bittersweet.

Stanford middle linebacker Fred Campbell injured his neck, ending his football career. He underwent an operation to fuse the vertebrae on Monday and could be left with limited range-of-motion in his neck.

And sophomore tailback Toby Gerhart, who ran for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Spartans, has a knee injury that will keep him out of Saturday night's game against Oregon.

The Ducks have won five straight and six of the last seven against the Cardinal. Stanford last beat Oregon at Autzen, 49-42, in 2001. Stanford's last win at home against Oregon was in 1997 when the Cardinal won 58-49. The 107 total points set a Stanford record.

Checking in with Kellen

Former Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens said he was never specifically told that he would start for the New York Jets last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens.

"As soon as our defense forced that first punt, I just kind of jogged out on the field and nobody told me not to," said Clemens, who was wearing an Oregon-themed T-shirt with the words "Getting The Job Done" printed on it.

Clemens was subbing for Jets starter Chad Pennington, who had a sprained ankle.

Clemens cut a 20-3 deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter and took the Jets to the Baltimore 7 before Ray Lewis intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone with 1:04 left to preserve the 20-13 win.

"He gave us a chance to win, and that is all you can ask for," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said about Clemens, who finished who finished 19-of-37 for 260 yards a touchdown.

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