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Stanford's physical, balanced attack whips Oregon

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford sat at home during its bye week and watched Oregon shred USC 47-20. Most of the nation went, "Wow!" The Cardinal went, "Hmm."

They took some notes. They paused and rewound some video. They grinned when reporters asked them if they felt intimidated facing the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense in the Pac-10.

And then they went out and ran all over the eighth-ranked Ducks in a 51-42 victory.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, in fact, called the bye week an "improvement week." It was one of many correct calls he's made of late.

While Oregon rallied in the fourth quarter, this one was about a balanced Stanford offense that never let up. Running back Tony Gerhart piled up a school-record 223 yards on 38 carries and scored three touchdowns, while redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 251 yards and two scores with no interceptions. His favorite target was Chris Owusu, who piled up 111 yards receiving on just four receptions.

"We saw some things that we could take advantage of, but we focused more on us, not them," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "I think that paid off."

Yep. Stanford, now 6-3 on the year and 5-2 in the Pac-10, is bowl eligible for the first time since 2001.

So what? said Harbaugh.

"That's never been our goal," he said. "Our goal has been to win the Pac-10 championship. We're still alive for that."

That's certainly true. Stanford opened the door for a number of teams by handing the Ducks (7-2, 5-1) their first conference defeat.

The Cardinal could make a major statement for themselves if they win next weekend at USC. That should be no problem, considering they have already beaten the two teams that beat USC: the Ducks and Washington.

Stanford led 31-14 at the half and pushed its lead to 48-28 early in the fourth quarter, but the Ducks kept clawing back. They actually outgained Stanford 570 yards to 505 in a contest that was a horror story for defensive coordinators.

"It's scary," Gerhart said. "Normally when you have a 20-point lead, you feel good about yourself. But against them I was till on edge."

Stanford's offense was physically dominant -- let's hear one for power trumping speed for once! -- but a defensive stop and curious coaching call played a big role in the second half.

Stanford stopped Oregon on a fourth-and-3 play on the Cardinal 39-yard line on the last play of the third quarter with the score 45-28. Stanford cornerback Michael Thomas perfectly timed a blitz and tackled Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli for a loss as he tried to run a read-option keeper.

"That was kind of key," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.

Then, with 15 seconds on the clock and Oregon out of time outs, Harbaugh, leading 48-42, opted to attempt a 47-yard field goal instead of conservatively falling on the ball. A blocked field goal could have been a disaster and would have made him a massive goat if the Ducks had pulled out a miracle finish.

But Nate Whitaker, who'd missed from 44 yards on his previous attempt, booted through the kick, which essentially ended the game.

"I just had a good feeling about Whitaker," Harbaugh said. "I just felt like he was going to make it."

As previously noted, Harbaugh made a number of good calls on this day.