They fled the scene of this accident and will now never know the answer the question they had asked for two weeks: Could two more victories get UCLA a spot in the four-team college football playoff?
The speculation was reassigned to "if-only" chatter after a 31-10 thrashing by
Oh, they might still get to see Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, but it would come in the Foster Farms Bowl after Christmas, not the
"We have higher expectations than those from the outside," UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley said. "To come out and have a performance like that is shocking."
Stanford (7-5 overall, 5-4 in Pac-12 play) rolled up 436 yards and held the ball for 37 minutes 49 seconds. Quarterback Kevin Hogan shook off the dust from his disappointing season to throw for 234 yards and two touchdowns, completing 16 of 19 passes.
The Bruins flatlined on offense. They had 262 yards. Hundley threw for 146 and spent the final minutes on the sideline with a finger injury.
"This is the kind of game we're capable of," Stanford Coach David Shaw said. "Defense wins. We made [UCLA] earn every yard. There were no cheap yards out there."
Only an expensive loss.
A week ago, UCLA player raced to the student section to celebrate a victory over USC. On Friday, they trudged off the field, looking numb.
"It goes without saying that this is a disappointing loss," Coach Jim Mora said.
It was for the Bruins. But recent Stanford games have ended that way.
This was UCLA's seventh consecutive loss to Stanford. A couple more and it could become tradition. The Bruins have lost six in a row to Oregon.
"We have to figure out a way to close the gap," Mora said.
The feeling was that they had. UCLA was hyped as a national title contender last summer. That lost steam when the Bruins were beaten by
The Bruins were No. 8 in this week's College Football Playoff ranking. All that stood between them and a second crack at the No. 2 Ducks was Stanford, which appeared in decline.
"We knew the reward if we would have won that game," linebacker Myles Jack said. "A chance at a Pac-12 title. A possible spot in the playoff. That's why this hurts. We wanted to change the conference, become Oregon and Stanford."
The game featured two quarterbacks who seemed headed down different paths. Hundley is set to jump to the NFL. Hogan seemed on a downward spiral.
Hundley put the Bruins in the end zone on their first drive. The rest of the day belonged to Hogan.
The Cardinal had 202 yards. Remound Wright and Christian McCaffrey both had 64 yards rushing, with Wright scoring two touchdowns. Hogan proved to be elusive, finishing with 46 yards rushing and scrambling before making completions.
"We were taking our shots, but you can't do that against that type of guy," Jack said. "He's too athletic. You've got to wrap up."
Hogan picked his spots to scorch the Bruins. He tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Rector and a 37-yard scoring pass to Devon Cajuste, who made the catch between two defenders, for a 21-10 halftime lead.
When Stanford scored on its first possession of the second half, UCLA playoff hopes began to evaporate. The Cardinal grinded yards and ran clock.
"They came out and did what they wanted to do," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "That's been their identity."
The Bruins finished with their fewest points since being held to 10 by Stanford last season.
"Momma told me there'd be days like this," UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said, shaking his head.
For the Bruins, those days always seem to come against Stanford and Oregon.
"This was one we needed," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "We didn't get it."