Stanford searches for answers on how to stop No. 13 Oregon

STANFORD, Calif. &

Watching film of Oregon's first three games would be enough to scare any defense.

There's Dennis Dixon running through the Houston defense for an 80-yard score and throwing an 85-yarder to Brian Paysinger against Michigan. Next is Jonathan Stewart rambling 88 yards for a touchdown against Fresno State and the Statue of Liberty plays that bamboozled Michigan.

Now it's up to Stanford (1-1, 0-1 Pac-10) to defend the 13th-ranked Ducks (3-0, 0-0), who lead the conference in rushing offense, scoring offense and total offense heading into their road game against the Cardinal on Saturday night.

"I think that's the thing that everybody is trying to figure out: How to slow them down," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I think it's going to take perfect execution on our part to do that. I don't know if I have that answer for you right now, how to slow them down."

After allowing 624 total yards in a 45-17 season-opening loss to UCLA, the Cardinal stiffened up defensively last week when they posted their first shutout in 11 years and allowed only 163 yards in a 37-0 victory over San Jose State.

But stopping the winless Spartans is a much easier task than contending with Dixon, Stewart and Co.

Oregon has won five straight games in the series and is averaging 39.5 points over the past 12 meetings.

"Oregon is always a tricky offense to game plan for," defensive lineman Ekom Udofia said. "They like to spread you out and find the seams in the defense. That's why we have to be so fundamentally sound because if one guy loses his gap, they can hit that hole. With the speed their backs have it's hard to catch up to them.

"They've been putting up big numbers this whole season. They have an explosive offense. It's going to be the biggest challenge we face all year. We're excited about it though. This can be a statement game for us."

Oregon got off to a fabulous start a year ago as well, beating nationally ranked Oklahoma at home and winning at Fresno State on the way to a 4-0 start that moved the Ducks all the way up to No. 11 in The Associated Press poll.

But then they lost six of their last nine games, including their final four contests, to finish a disappointing season. Oregon is out to prove that this season is different.

"The only similarity is just the numbers," Stewart said. "We started out great last year and we've started out great this year. The only thing different is I think we have more wisdom on this team. We have more experienced players."

Coach Mike Bellotti said his players have been able to maintain a short-term focus this year, not letting the hype surrounding the big win at Michigan detract from their play last week against Fresno State. With a showdown looming next week at home against No. 6 California, Bellotti is not afraid his team will overlook Stanford.

"We have a motto which is respect all, fear none. It's really just that," he said. "I think we have to be prepared for the best game from this Stanford team. Obviously, they're capable of playing very, very good football. I think we have to guard against any type of a step back."

The biggest difference this year has been the play of Dixon, who has found the consistency that was often lacking last season despite spending the summer playing minor league baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Through three games, he has run for 276 yards and three scores and passed for 565 yards and seven touchdowns. He has completed 65 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception as he repeatedly makes the right decisions. Dixon has shown he is much more than just a running quarterback.

"He's thrown some of the nicest balls I've ever seen," said Harbaugh, who played quarterback for 15 seasons in the NFL. "He has excellent touch. I love his athleticism. I like watching him play. I like the way he toys with defenders on the sideline. He's very Vince Young-like the way he is able to do it. Accuracy, he has great instincts, tremendous instincts. That's what makes him the player that he is."

The Cardinal will be short-handed this week following two key injuries in the win over San Jose State. Running back Toby Gerhart injured his knee in the second half and is doubtful this week, while starting middle linebacker Fred Campbell had a career-ending neck injury.

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