An Interview with Ryan McManus

Ryan McManus '15

Ryan McManus ’15

Halfway through the season, the 2014 Big Green football team is showing immense improvement from last year and great promise. This is the first season in which the team is 2-0 in Ivy League play and it has been a while since the team was 4-1. This success can probably be attributed to the new changes in the offensive scheme. The team has gone from a tradition huddle offense to a faster paced no-huddle spread offense. Wide receiver Ryan McManus ’15 explains that the shift in schemes has been a “gradual transition,” but now, halfway through the season, they have really gelled together and are much more consistent. A spread offense consists of the quarterback starting the play in the shotgun with or without a running back to his side and the wide receivers all spaced out in the formation. This opens up many holes within the opposing defense to allow the offense to make quicker and easier plays. Not only that, instead of huddling up to understand the play call (which takes a few seconds), the offense immediately lines up, looks to the sideline for signals, and then executes. McManus appreciates that the offense is so “run heavy” and that both offensive linemen and receiver can block and impose their will onto defenders. However with this faster, hurry-up tempo, “long drives can get physically tough.” The whole team is working harder to get “stronger and better each game for all positions, shaking off that first game rust.” The offensive line has especially improved since the first game against Central Connecticut. For the season, this line has allowed eleven total sacks and the run game averages 4 yards per carry.

So far this schematic shift has been quite successful. Through five games, the offense is averaging 352.8 yards/game, 5.2 yards/play, and 29.4 points/game. Their red zone scoring percentage is at a staggering 95% (19 scores-20 attempts, 15 touchdowns-20 attempts).

Another key component in the current success is the consistent quarterback play from Dalyn Williams ’16. As a “dangerous dual threat” quarterback, he fits into this spread scheme perfectly. In this offense he has the option to either pass or run (thanks to those holes in the defense). Up to this point, he has 975 yards passing, ten touchdowns to only two interceptions, and a 59% completion percentage. On the ground, he’s racked up 351 yards and leads the team with five touchdown runs. His big play ability and excellent ball security have certainly helped the Big Green rise as a contender this season.

Ryan McManus also has a huge role in this fast-paced offense as he leads all receivers with 32 catches, 454 receiving yards, and is second with three touchdowns. Amazingly, he averages 14.2 yards/catch and 90.8 yards/game. Additionally, McManus also returns punts for the team averaging 13.1 yards/return with a long of 60 yards and a touchdown against Yale.

As a senior, McManus says, “It’s extremely nice to control our own destiny in the Ivy League.” The Big Green is 2-0 in Ivy play and will need to win out to capture their first Ivy League championship since 1996. The rest of the schedule contains all Ivy teams (Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, Brown, and Princeton). According to McManus, though the team is looking forward to the rest of the schedule, they’re “focusing all attention on Columbia.” With this “one game at a time” mentality, they hope to “avoid overlooking opponents” like they did with Holy Cross. “We didn’t play as well as we could have. It wasn’t pretty and we let our guard down, but it was still a solid win on Homecoming.”

Looking forward, it seems that the Green’s biggest obstacle between them and the championship is Harvard (5-0, 2-0). Both Cornell and Columbia are winless and Brown and Princeton should be good matchups. Fortunately for the team, they’ve already played and won in the stadium with the toughest home field advantage on the schedule, the Yale Bowl. The Green plays Harvard at home on Memorial Field. This should provide a much needed edge against a strong team.

While the offense has been fairly consistent in scoring points, this 2014 Dartmouth team is going to rise or fall based on the defense’s performance. On the year, the defense gave up on average 452.8 yards/game and 28.4 points/game. The secondary gave up 300+ yards passing in consecutive games against Penn and Yale. They will have to improve upon stopping opposing offenses, especially the Harvard offense that averages 430 yards/game. The best strategy going forward is to increase the amount of turnovers. As of now, the defense has nine total takeaways (seven interceptions and two fumble recoveries). The offense, fortunately, has been very smart with the ball, losing it only four times. This gives the team an overall turnover margin of +5. Turnovers are especially important as it gives this high powered offense a chance to capitalize and score points (on the year Dartmouth has scored 38 points off of them).

The Big Green are feeling confident heading into the October 25 matchup with the Lions, as the Big Apple’s Ivy has suffered sixteen straight losses dating back to last season. History is on the side of Dartmouth, as the team leads the series versus Columbia 66-17-1, which is good for a dominant 0.797 winning percentage. Dartmouth leads the Ivy League with seventeen conference championships, whereas the gridiron Lions have seen little recent success, given that their last title came back in 1961 during the Kennedy Administration.

Columbia has struggled mightily on offense this fall, converting a mere 30% of their third-downs, are averaging only 45.8 rushing yards/game, and have scored only one rushing touchdown. The hardly lionhearted defense has been outscored 221-55 over their first five games, are surrendering 541.4 yards of total offense per game, and 280.6 yards on the ground.

This game will definitely give the Big Green an opportunity to flex their defensive muscles. Will McNamara ’16 will look to add to his team leading twenty-four tackles, and ballhawking safety Troy Donahue ’16 hopes to get an interception in his fourth consecutive game. The front seven of the defense should have no trouble bullying Columbia’s offensive line and stuffing the run (Columbia averages only two yards per carry). The defensive line should also be able to increase their total sack count since Columbia has given up ten on the year. Columbia, however, might put up a valiant effort with junior quarterback Trevor McDonagh taking the reins from incumbent starter (and Stanford transfer) Brett Nottingham. McDonagh performed adequately in the loss against Penn last week throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown.

The season is only halfway done, so there is not a clear outcome just yet. The 2014 Dartmouth Big Green however do have a legitimate shot of winning it all this year. The success of this team right now is riding on the performance of the defense, which needs to force more stops to allow the offense to rack up points and yards. After all, defenses win championships. The biggest obstacle is Harvard, but that is not for another two weeks. For now, it’s all eyes on Columbia (0-5, 0-2).

Peter D. Vo also contributed to this interview.