KU football’s Daniel Wise answers challenge, aiming for more in final weeks

photo by: Chelsea Grobelny

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise smiles as he watches the closing moments of the Jayhawks' road win at Central Michigan.

For most of the first five games of the season, Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise’s contributions came more schematically than statistically.

In the days leading up to the Jayhawks’ Oct. 6 football game at West Virginia, conversations his coaches and teammates had regarding Wise during media interviews centered on his value as a defender who demands double teams. Head coach David Beaty even agreed with a comparison drawn between Wise’s play and that of Dorance Armstrong Jr., in 2017, when the then-KU defensive end wasn’t producing the sacks and tackles for loss many expected.

According to Beaty, it was during that same week of WVU preparation that the coach let Wise know the Jayhawks needed more.

In KU’s first five games the defense only delivered five sacks. Thanks to Wise and his fellow defensive linemen, the Jayhawks were able to add five more to double their season total in a loss at WVU.

“I think he played very relentlessly throughout the day,” Beaty said of Wise, following a 3.5 tackles for loss performance during which the redshirt senior defensive lineman sacked Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier on back-to-back fourth quarter plays. “He had a look in his eye coming into this game. We challenged him and the defensive line to be able to put some pressure on and I think they answered the bell pretty well.”

Before Wise took down Grier, Brian Lipscomb sacked the QB in the first quarter, and Kyron Johnson strip-sacked him in the third, allowing J.J. Holmes to recover a fumble for KU. Later in the fourth, Joe Dineen sacked Grier, as well.

The sacks felt long overdue for Wise, who entered the road loss with only one sack on the year.

“It was worth it. It was a long game of just fighting and fighting, trying to get there, trying to get there and finally got there,” Wise said, adding the players around him and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen’s game plan made what he did effective. “I just thank them for that.”

Beaty had challenged Wise to pressure Grier, the defensive lineman said, by “constantly” bringing up how Grier was “supposed to be the best quarterback” in the Big 12 and the KU defense needed to make him prove it.

Although the Jayhawks’ defenders disrupted Grier often, intercepting three passes to go with their five sacks and two pass breakups, the redshirt senior QB still threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns and led his team to a 38-22 victory, so the Jayhawks’ success was relative.

Nonetheless, Wise said he and fellow defenders were able to enter the team’s bye week with at least a minute level of satisfaction after the defensive line and secondary complemented each other well on the road at WVU, with not only QB pressures that led to off-target passes but also some instances of the pass coverage leaving Grier with few options.

“They did great job of locking down and giving us enough time to fight off guys and get back there for a couple of sacks,” Wise said. “So it was both ways. It was a great defensive game.”

KU’s break from competition this past week, Wise said ahead of it, came at a “perfect” time.

“The momentum we have will carry into next week,” Wise avowed. “Everybody will have a little rest and recovery, heal up, keep the same energy.”

At the midway point of the season, KU (2-4 overall, 0-3 Big 12) obviously must continue improving defensively, Wise said.

“That was one of our better games defensively, but we still have a lot of room to grow. Going into the bye week we’re going to take this momentum, learn from our mistakes and get ready for the next game,” he added.

Kansas plays at Texas Tech (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (FOX Sports 1).

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