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Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
Holgate, Montana, and his Buddies
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. The football team remained undefeated going into this week's homecoming game. The women's golf team won the MIAC tourney. And women's soccer had a sweet sweep at home. But the best of the football team's formidable Montana contingent was felled by a serious knee injury.
Dan Holgate might have been the best athlete on campus. But he twisted his knee in a practice drill on September 23rd and soon learned that he's suffered the dreaded ACL, a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Surgery will take place soon and he's done for the season.
Now his teammates, including many key Big Sky state colleagues, must carry on without him as they chase their dream of an MIAC title.
Holgate, from Billings, seemed headed for a an all-America senior season as the Cobber free safety. And, as flattering as that might sound, Dan Holgate was and is a whole lot more than just a very good free safety.
At 5-11, 180 pounds, he had speed, grace, and a constant twinkle in his eye that said "this is fun." After two years as a starting football cornerback, the Cobber coaches moved him to free safety to, in the words of defensive coordinator Dave Klug, "..have someone there who could make the big plays." Good move.
In game one against Moorhead State, Holgate had an interception to secure the win plus 10 tackles. In game two against Gustavus he had six tackles and two more interceptions.
In just two weeks, Holgate had played a major role in making the Cobbers look like title contenders again. Not bad considering football might be his second-best sport.
Holgate is an accomplished outfielder on the Cobber baseball team. He hit 3.60 last spring and earned a place on the all-tournament team at NCAA Regionals. Holgate was in the running to be picked in last June's major league draft, and legitimate hopes for a big league career still burned. That dream too is, at the very least, on hold.
Holgate, much to his credit, has paid serious attention in class, well enough to carry a 3.4 GPA and get himself honored twice as an academic all-MIAC athlete.
Last Saturday, Dan was in St.Paul to watch his buddies, many from his beloved Montana, carry on without him.
Mike Jousma, the junior halfback from Bigfork, MT, ran for 134 yards, the third consecutive week in which a Big Sky athlete earned Cobber offensive player of the week honors. In week 1, senior quarterback Dan Sward (Whitefish, MT) ran for 143 yards in the win over Moorhead State. In week 2, senior fullback Frank Haughn (Eureka, MT) ran for 85 yards and scored three TDs in a convincing win over Gustavus.
These three backs are getting a fair amount of their yards by following the blocking of Brian Smith, the junior left guard from Missoula.
Storm Norick, a sophomore from Kalispell, MT, kicked a go-ahead field goal in the first half at Hamline and, later, the game's only PAT.
But the Hamline game belonged to the Cobber defense. Maybe in honor of Dan, maybe out of fear that he was not there to back them up, the defense was splendid. They shut Hamline out, holding them to 116 yards rushing and 14 for 45 through the air.
And the Montana boys did their part there as well. Senior tackle Jeff Knutson, from Great Falls, kept the pressure on up front. Junior linebacker John Byorth, from Billings, tipped a couple of passes and ended the game as No. 2 in tackles for the 1992 Cobbers with 29.
Although the bond between Montana players is strong and something of a tradition here, the 1992 Cobbers clearly share a connectedness that goes beyond any state loyalties.
There exists a comradery on this team that has been delightful to watch develop, born, it seems, from a simple belief that this is really just a game they're playing. They play and joke with each other like sixth grade boys on a sandlot, scratching plays in the dirt, calling time outs only when laughter doubles them over. True, they are playing with great intensity. And true, they have worked at being good at this game harder than most of us can imagine.
But they don't seem to be forgetting it's just a game. And Holgate's simple glee in playing the game, maybe more so than his raw athletic talent, helped get this team where it is.
There is, sadly, a sense of separateness from teammates that usually sets in and grows after an injury like Dan's.
Everyone will try to not let that happen. But there's a certain inevitability to the process. And it carries great pain, often more than the injury itself.
After the game at Hamline, while the players were still lingering on the field, talking with teammates and relatives, Dan Holgate was making his way across the far side of the field, alone and on crutches.
Head coach Jim Christopherson had run onto the field in joy, celebrating the first Cobber win at Norton Field since 1979.
With parents and media and assorted others closing in on him for comments and handshakes, Christopherson turned and noticed the solitary Holgate.
Christopherson turned away from the crowd, went over to Dan, put his arm around Dan's shoulder, and the two shared a private moment.
As painful as injuries are, some things help make the pain bearable, like understanding coaches, knowing it's just a game, and good buddies, from beloved Montana and elsewhere.
These pages are maintained by Jerry Pyle email@example.com. These articles are copyrighted © and may not be published or reproduced without the express permission of Jerry Pyle.
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