By Logan Lowery
MEMPHIS – Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning knows his share about Rice football.
Koenning is a native Texan – born and raised in Houston, where his father, Les Koenning Sr., was an assistant coach for the Owls. The younger Koenning played against Rice while at Texas and also had a three-year stint as the Owls’ wide receivers coach from 1990-93.
“I’m very familiar with the program,” Koenning said. “I know a lot of good people there. It’s a very strong school academically and it’s located in a beautiful part of Houston. It’s really a neat place.”
But Koenning’s connections not only lie with the program historically. He has also crossed paths with several of the current Owls coaches as well.
Koenning considers Rice head coach David Bailiff and offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek close friends and coached alongside defensive coordinator Chris Thurmond while at Alabama and Texas A&M.
“I’m very familiar with the people there,” Koenning said. “They’ve done an outstanding job. I know what they go through at Rice. To win 10 games there is really good for them.”
Koenning even recalls when Bailiff owned a river rafting business in San Marcos, Texas “back in our younger days.”
Tubby back in town
MSU junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis made his collegiate debut inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium two years ago against the University of Memphis.
That night Lewis, affectionately known as “Tubby” by his teammates, rolled up 152 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He led the team with four catches for 113 yards including an 80-yard touchdown grab from Tyler Russell in that contest.
Lewis was the Bulldogs’ top receiving target in 2013 with 55 catches for 703 yards and five touchdowns. He is hoping to have another big game in Memphis during Tuesday’s Liberty Bowl.
“It’s a good memory and I’m hoping to go out there and do the same or maybe a little bit more,” Lewis said. “I was younger then and now I’m more mature and know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”
Two more State seniors confirmed all-star invitations after the Liberty Bowl.
Offensive guard Gabe Jackson has accepted to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 25 televised by the NFL Network.
“It’s great to be able to go down there and play with other guys who are good for the competition,” Jackson said. “It’s a chance to go learn different things from other coaches and get out of the norm. I think it’s a great opportunity.
Running back LaDarius Perkins had three all-star invitations and will participate in the East-West Shrine game on Jan. 18 in St. Petersburg, Fla., also on the NFL Network. Perkins is also an alternate for the Senior Bowl.