What’s In A Name? It’s Koenning vs. Koenning As WVU Faces Kansas
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning matches up against his cousin, Kansas offensive coordinator Les Koenning, on Saturday, their will be familial pride on the line – at the least. At the most, it could be a continuation of a long-ago confrontation on the dusty plains of East Texas that split the family into two branches so distinct that each side now pronounces its surname differently.
“He is a second cousin, but he says it ‘Kenning’,” WVU’s defensive coordinator said, comparing it to his side of the family, which goes with “Konning” with a long “o.” “It’s kind of a long story.”
Anyone who has been around Vic Koenning for more than five minutes knows that his sayings and stories are pure gold, so it doesn’t matter how long they might take to spin out. It’s going to be worth it, and sure enough, this one is too.
“The story goes that back a long time ago in East Texas there were two brothers on a farm. Either one of them pulled a knife on a fistfight or one of them pulled a gun on a knife fight,” Koenning related. “One of them said, ‘Hey, I’m out of here.’ I’m sure that was my relative.
“Most of my relatives are from San Antonio,” Vic shared, revealing the destination that the long ago relative presumably lit out for. “I knew Les when he played at Texas, but then I ran into him at a coaches’ convention years later, and he looked like (me), so I said ‘You’ve gotta be related to me.’ We’ve talked a bunch, not recently, but we’ve gotten to be acquaintances. I’ve talked to his dad, and he said, ‘I heard that story.’ It’s the same one my dad told me. So, that must be true.”
A short Internet search reveals a report by the Starkville (Miss.) Dispatch that lists 1850s German immigrants Joe and Leslie Koenning as the combatants, with the resulting split leaving feelings so hardened that one of them changed the pronunciation of the last name. Multiple online sources list the long “o” pronunciation of the name as correct, so it may be that Vic’s branch of the family is the one that retained it.
Both Koennings, of course, are more interested in winning this weekend’s battle than figuring out who came out on top in that showdown of generations past.
“They are good enough to score from anywhere,” Vic said of Kansas running backs Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert, who form something of a lightning and thunder combination for the Jayhawks. “It’s going to take all we’ve got to try to corral those guys.”
Although Williams, because of his 1,125 yards as a redshirt freshman last year, gets most of the attention, it’s Herbert who has hurt WVU more in the past. Two years ago in Lawrence, he carried 36 times for 291 yards and two scores, as the Mountaineers were totally helpless to stop him. This year, he’s averaging 119 per contest, topping Williams’ 110.
“They’re well coached, they know where they want to run the ball, and they have great vision and great feel,” Koenning said. “They do a great job of feeling the gap.”
Koenning is also impressed with Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley, who blossomed against Boston College last week when the Jayhawks incorporated more run-pass options (RPOs) into their offensive scheme. That constitutes a seismic shift for head coach Les Miles, who was married to the ground and pound approach for most of his head coaching career. It also shows that Vic’s cousin Les is wielding more influence on the game plan.
“I think he throws a very accurate football. It’s in front of the receiver which allows them to keep running,” Vic Koenning said of Stanley. “I saw one time in three games where he opened the wrong way. I haven’t seen anything to make me think he’s not in complete control. Last week they opened the field up, and he shredded Boston College. He single-handedly took that game over. He threw the ball to the right guy and didn’t miss any open guys. I was extremely impressed with him.”
Stanley was 20-27 for 238 yards and three scores against the Eagles, and is completing a pro-level 70.7 percent of his passes on the season.