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With the first Koenning vs. Koenning matchup, an old family affair will be reignited in Lawrence

“It’s kind of a long story,” West Virginia defensive coordinator responded when asked about his relation to Kansas offensive coordinator Les Koenning.

“I’ve got three sons. Most everybody that’s got boys knows they tend to fight a little bit when they get a little older. How the story goes — back a long time ago in East Texas there were a couple of brothers on this farm, and either one of them pulled a knife on a fistfight, or one of them pulled a gun on a knife fight, or whatever and they got in a big fight. One of them said, ‘I’m out of here.’ I’m sure that was my relative.” said Vic in his abridged version of the story.

Just a year ago, the two cousins were coaching in two completely different conferences with Les, a defensive coordinator in Conference USA at Southern Miss, and Vic with Neal Brown coaching at Troy, and the other cousin completely out of mind. Now, the two will clash in Lawrence and will be the most important person in each of their minds for 60 minutes, in a classic OC vs. DC showdown. 

“I knew Les when he played at Texas, he played receiver. But then I ran into him at a coaches convention in New Orleans. (I told him) You’ve got to be related to me. We’ve talked a bunch, not recently, but we’ve gotten to be acquaintances, said Vic.

It just so happens this year, the competition between the two teams may be as tight as it’s ever been since West Virginia joined the Big 12 seasons ago. Kansas is coming off their first Power 5 road win in 11 years, and Les Miles has built more hype around the program seemingly since their 2007 season, where they won twelve games with Mark Mangino at the helm.

They may not have the quite quality of team they had years ago in 2007, but the atmosphere at Kansas Memorial Stadium may reflect as if they do with Kansas returning home after their big win over ranked Boston College. 

In a classic OC vs. DC showdown, it would only be fitting for each cousin to flex on an ‘our best vs your best’ type mentality. The Kansas offense is led by two dynamic running backs in Khalil Herbert and former 1,000-yard rusher a year ago Pooka Williams. The two combined for 308 yards and two touchdowns last weekend, and Vic will have his hands full trying to keep Les’s backs from running all over the Mountaineers similar to how the Jayhawks have in years past with the old staff.

The Mountaineers knew they would have to deal with strong running back play coming into last week as well, and they did well to keep the Wolfpack in check to the tune of 144 yards, with just 25 second-half rushing yards. 

One of the clear strengths of the early staff early in their tenure has been the quality of the second-half adjustments the Mountaineers have made so far this season. With both Williams and Herbert running the ball, they will likely need to continue this trend for a win on the road, with Vic Koenning at the forefront of the defensive decision.

Cover Photo Credit: WVU Athletics, Wichita News

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