STILLWATER, Okla. — If one wanted, they could attribute an unfortunate bit of symbolism to Daniel Green’s No. 22 jersey. One “2” is for the number of games he’s been ejected from this season; the other deuce (ironically enough, also his nickname) is the number of halves he’s had to miss as a result.
A fourth-year junior linebacker for Kansas State, he’s one of the team’s most important defenders. Despite missing those four quarters of football this fall, he’s still collected 25 tackles — just one behind fellow linebacker Cody Fletcher for the team lead. His statistics, while impressive given the missed time, only account for one measure of his significance. He’s also one of the players responsible for on-field defensive play-calling.
They had to do without his voice following his most recent ejection, which came in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State.
K-State head coach Chris Klieman only could shake his head at Green’s lack of luck.
“We’ve got to clean it up, for sure,” Klieman said. “I didn’t see the replay well enough to say if this one was, but it obviously was (in the officials’ opinion).”
Klieman said Green simply has to change the manner in which he takes down opposing players.
“Daniel has to lower his target, and he’s got to keep his eyes up, bottom line,” Klieman said. “We can’t afford to lose Daniel Green. He’s too good of a football player, and that’s two games out of four that we’ve lost him for a half.”
After serving his one-half punishment in the final two quarters Saturday, Green will return to his spot in the starting lineup for this week’s home game versus No. 6 Oklahoma.
With Green watching from the sideline against the Cowboys, another fourth-year junior, Nick Allen, had to take nearly every snap of the second half.
After tying Fletcher for the game high in tackles with 10, Allen shrugged off the extra work.
“We always double up at practice, so I think everybody, me and Austin (Moore), we’re always ready to be put in in any given situation,” said Allen, whose tackle total Saturday nearly doubled his career haul (six) entering the game. “Clearly, it was a little surprising to see Deuce go out with a targeting call, but we’re always prepared. That’s just something the coaches have done a great job of is having us prepared for scenarios like that.”
Allen said Green “obviously” was upset following the ejection, which came on a controversial takedown of Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders. But Green’s anger at the situation didn’t affect his ability to assist the defense — especially Allen.
“I told him to keep his head up. I needed him to help me get through it all,” Allen said. “So he did a great job. He kept his head up. He didn’t show that it affected him. He’s a (big) reason that the defense played a pretty solid second half.”
Green’s first ejection this season came in the second half of the opening-game win over Stanford. To that point, he had tallied nine tackles, which led all players. Even that didn’t do the performance justice, Joe Klanderman said.
“Daniel was just doing his job, but also some of the effort plays he made were sensational, some of the things that maybe you won’t see on a stat sheet,” said Klanderman, who is in his second season as the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator. “They threw a little check down to the back, and we missed a tackle on the flat. He’s the guy who tackles it — and he was a blitzer on the play. It’s redirecting and making an effort play. You look at the stat sheet and you see Daniel Green tackle, but you don’t know how impressive that is for him to change direction and get in on that.”
Reflecting upon that ejection, Klanderman said it was “tough to get upset” with the ruling. He noted there was no malicious intent on Green’s part.
Much like Saturday’s ejection, Green was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw, to be honest with you,” Klanderman said. “If the receiver ducks his head and we are getting ourselves in a position at the same time, helmet-to-helmet contact can occur. I understand the rule. I understand it’s there to eliminate the malicious play. Sometimes we’re a victim of the circumstance, and that was one of those deals.”