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Shaky line play a Stanford rarity

These days, it's mea culpa en masse on The Farm.

How the Cardinal were able to so efficiently move the ball, and yet come away with just 10 points in their 13-10 loss to USC on Saturday, isn't exactly a mystery. Just the opposite, in fact. It was a breakdown. And it was glaring.

Anyone who watched came away thinking the same thing ... that just didn't look like Stanford. Stanford doesn't self-destruct. Stanford doesn't take aim at its toes. The Cardinal, so precise and disciplined in what they do, failed to live up to that standard against the Trojans -- specifically in the red zone and along the offensive line, where the Cardinal have four new starters.

There were missed assignments, mental errors and penalties big and small. Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren, who also coaches the offensive line, said any finger pointing should start with him and then trickle down.

"Anytime you point a finger, there are four pointing back at you," Bloomgren said. "The blame, if anybody wants to blame anybody, they should even the blame out pretty fairly. I heard [head coach David Shaw] after the game, he said the red zone is on him. I think that's untrue. I agree with the boss 99.9 percent of the time. But I disagree with him on this one. I think the blame has to go on every coach and every offensive player that had any part in that game on Saturday."

So it's back to the film room, where Bloomgren will try to bring this group of highly-touted recruits into one unit as an offensive line. It certainly wasn't all bad. The Cardinal tallied 413 total yards and kept USC's up-tempo offense in check by extending drives. Which is exactly what they wanted to do.

But once they got into the red zone, the Cardinal converted on just 1 of 5 opportunities.

"The film showed a very inconsistent group," Bloomgren said. "A group that's unbelievably talented and can take a great defensive front and move them all around the field but was still making too many errors for our offense to be successful and end drives in the end zone. Whether those errors are penalties or missed assignments or snapping the ball over someone's head, those have to be eliminated."

Last year, Stanford offensive linemen were flagged three times for holding -- for the entire season. A 14-game season. They already have two this year in two games, to go with a couple of false starts and one game-changing illegal block that took a touchdown off the board against the Trojans.

"Penalties are such a component of lack of discipline and that's something these guys don't lack in their lives and I never would have thought we would lack on the field," Bloomgren said. "But two games in, we are who we are. And that's who we are. We're an undisciplined group right now and we need to work really hard to change that."

Shaw was quick to praise the good things the young group did -- like solid pass protection that allowed quarterback Kevin Hogan to complete 22 of 30 passes for 285 yards. He was just as quick to point out the inconsistencies.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "It's a really good group. Before we ever started playing games, I know Game 4 and Game 5 they are going to be better than they were in Game 1 and 2. And we're counting on that."

The hope for Bloomgren and Co. is that the linemen can take this game as a learning experience. While a loss in Week 2 certainly doesn't eliminate the Cardinal from competing for a third-straight conference title, it puts them in the position of having to play catch-up.

"For them having to watch this film and know that in a ball game decided by three points, there are 25 snaps where if someone does one thing different, we score a touchdown or move the sticks one more time and in a game that's decided by three points, you realize how critical those one or two mistakes that you made are," Bloomgren said. "And then you compound them with the one or two mistakes the guy next to you made, you see why this offense struggled to score points. We moved the ball fine. We just didn't find a way to score points."