It happens to every company sooner or later: Wall Street sets a mark for quarterly earnings, and the company misses that goal. Sometimes, an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, we'll see that a secure network doesn't always mean a secure cash flow, airline highfliers are few and far between, and the books say there's unrest at the borders.

Our first underperformer today is Blue Coat Systems (NASDAQ:BCSI). The maker of proxy appliances that keep your internal business network secure from viruses, spyware, and unwanted visitors emanating from the rest of the Internet reported $0.07 of earnings per diluted share for the quarter, 22% below analyst expectations of $0.09. Those are non-GAAP numbers. Add back various one-time charges and stock options expensing, and Blue Coat lost $0.19 per share.

Management blames slower growth in the proxy server market and promises that the outlook is still bright because of the company's leadership position. It's an awfully bold claim for a company that's up against significantly larger competitors like Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), Network Appliance (NASDAQ:NTAP), and Radware (NASDAQ:RDWR), and I think it's about time for Blue Coat to put up some numbers soon. The excuses are wearing a bit thin.

Next up on our list is Frontier Airlines (NASDAQ:FRNT), a small national airline with a Denver hub. We all know that airlines are having a rough time across the board, and Frontier has more reasons than most to miss its targets. Denver is reportedly an expensive airport out of which to run almost your entire fleet, and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) is making inroads in the Colorado market. Add in the ridiculously high fuel prices, and you'd almost expect to see a white flag waving from the control tower.

But although Frontier didn't quite meet expectations, things aren't all that bad. A $0.22 per-share loss for the quarter translates to $7.9 million of red ink, whereas $0.18 was all the red Wall Street had expected. CFO Paul Tate says that he thought jet fuel was horribly expensive last year, and this quarter, aircraft fuel expense was $26 million more than the comparable year-ago period. Ouch. But back that cost increase out, and you'd have a tidy income this time. It's a sign of a well-run company under extreme pricing pressure -- exactly the kind of situation where you might want to dig for more evidence of a coming turnaround.

Finally, bookstore and music seller Borders (NYSE:BGP) is in the midst of remodeling its stores, and nothing besides the holiday shopping quarter really matters much to this business, anyway. Still, analysts had hoped for a loss of just $0.24 per diluted share, but the chain delivered a $0.29 loss per share instead.

The Waldenbooks segment saw 7.3% lower revenues in comparable stores than it did a year earlier, and overall, Borders Group sales ticked up 1.5%. But the remodeled Borders stores actually gained 3%. I doubt that the remodeling effort can counterbalance the lack of a Harry Potter book in this quarter, so the year-over-year comparison will be very tough. Is the age of the bookstore coming to an end thanks to online shopping and downloadable audio books? Or is Borders simply at the bottom of a long-term business cycle?

Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next Monday, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational. I promise.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund does not own any of the companies mentioned but thinks it would be cool to go to Denver and have a chat with Tim Beyers one fine Rocky Mountain day. Foolish disclosure is always flying high.