PASADENA, California — It was all there for No. 9 UCLA, the program that has seemingly always been one step away from joining college football's elite.
Just beat Stanford and the Bruins would advance to the Pac-12 title game. Defeat Oregon there, and UCLA would have as strong a case as any team in the country to be ranked among the top four.
Instead, UCLA found itself back in familiar territory, taking one step back and left to rue what might have been.
Kevin Hogan passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and Stanford crushed UCLA's hopes for the Pac-12 South division title and a College Football Playoff spot with a 31-10 victory Friday.
"What we set out this season was to win a Pac-12 championship and try and change things in the Pac-12, be one of the Oregons and Stanfords," UCLA linebacker Myles Jack said. "We figured this was the year, but I guess not."
Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector caught scoring passes for the Cardinal (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) as the two-time defending conference champions salvaged some satisfaction from a down season by trouncing the Bruins (9-3, 6-3) for the seventh consecutive time.
With Hogan's dynamite 16-for-19 performance and two rushing TDs from Remound Wright, Stanford snatched the South title away from UCLA and handed it to Arizona, a 42-35 winner over Arizona State on Friday.
"We had higher expectations than that," UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley said. "To put a performance together like that, it's shocking."
Stanford simply became the latest line in a list of missed chances for the Bruins to secure relevance by simply winning their regular season finale.
There was the 1998 loss to Miami in a game rescheduled from earlier in the year because of a hurricane, when a defensive meltdown denied a UCLA team led by Cade McNown a berth in the inaugural BCS title game.
There was the 1988 loss to crosstown rival USC to deny Troy Aikman, whose No. 8 jersey was retired at halftime Saturday, a berth in the Rose Bowl.
There was the 1967 loss to USC, proclaimed the Game of the Century by no less an authority than famed announcer Keith Jackson, to deny Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban a berth in the Rose Bowl and the national championship.
Hundley had a chance to move ahead of that illustrious company with a win to keep grander aspirations alive. Instead, the junior dropped to 0-6 against conference titans Stanford and Oregon by passing for 146 yards in likely his final home game for the Bruins, losing a matchup with Hogan for the fourth time in three years.
While Hogan starred, Hundley endured the third-worst passing game of his 39 career starts before finishing on the sideline with an injured throwing hand.
Just six days after a blowout win over rival Southern California, UCLA retained none of that momentum or passion in its third home loss of the season. The Bruins' latest flop in a big game ended their five-game winning streak, which had given them an outside shot at the four-team playoff after a slow start.
"The reward we would have got for winning this game, it hurts," Jack said. "We were aware of what was to come if we handled our business, but it didn't happen that way."
The Cardinal are comfortable in Pasadena after playing here on the last two New Year's Days, and Hogan sparked the Pac-12's lowest-scoring offense to a dominant, clock-chewing performance that measured up with Stanford's best efforts during its current renaissance.
"When they get up early and are not forced into situations where they have to stretch the field, they can stay (with) three tight ends, two backs and pound the rock. They are very dangerous because that's what they are built for," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.
After joining UCLA's seniors for a pregame ceremony, Hundley said farewell to the Rose Bowl with a tentative, ineffectual effort, getting sacked four times while the Bruins were shut out for the final 41 minutes. Backup Jerry Neuheisel finished the game after Hundley hit his right hand on a helmet.
"It got really big and can't do much with it after that," said Hundley, his hand bandaged and wrapped in ice.
Initial X-rays were negative, and while Hundley said further tests would be forthcoming, he was optimistic he would be available for a bowl game.
Coach Jim Mora's defense also rarely slowed down the Cardinal's deliberate offense, which outgained UCLA 436-262 and had the ball for nearly 38 minutes. For all his success in a three-year revival of the UCLA program, Mora still hasn't beaten Stanford or Oregon.
Asked what UCLA can do to break through against Stanford or Oregon, Jack said: "We have to play a complete game. We came out, got on them early. The energy was up, and from then on, it was just kind of mellow. We did that with Oregon too. We have to continue going. We can't be up and down like a roller coaster. We have to be steady."