As Anthony Wales racked up 111 yards on 19 carries last weekend, the Western Kentucky junior ran like his life depended on it.
Wales, the Central High School grad better known as Ace, had little choice as the speedy alternative to 6-foot-1, 240-pound D’Andre Ferby in the Hilltoppers’ backfield.
“He’s the thunder and I’m the lightning,” Wales said. “When I get in, those guys are trying to kill me because they’ve had to tackle 240. I try to not make it so easy on them.”
Wales certainly didn’t as WKU’s featured back in a rout of Middle Tennessee. As he continues healing up from a torn hamstring, the Louisville native again anticipates a major role Thursday night at North Texas.
It’s truly the first time since Wales’ senior season at Central, when he led the Yellowjackets during their Class 3-A championship season, that the Louisville native has served as a go-to option.
“We’re going to continue to hand it to him,” said Tyson Helton, WKU’s offensive coordinator. “Very pleased with what he did. He’s trying to get ready, too. He hasn’t hit his best game by any means.
“We’re really pleased with what he did and looking forward to another good game.”
Wales’ injury forced him to miss the end of fall camp, plus the Hilltoppers’ first four games. He returned Oct. 3 to carry three times against Rice, then broke out versus rival Middle Tennessee, leading the ground attack in a 58-28 win.
Six WKU players recorded a carry against the Blue Raiders, and Wales had nearly half of the 40 attempts.
“I think he’s going to continue to get better,” coach Jeff Brohm said after the game. “I thought last week he was a little rusty. He’s a guy that needs practice reps, needs game reps, but he works hard. He’s been putting in the time. He came out today and carried the ball a lot more and made some runs.”
Both Wales and Ferby are working in unanticipated roles this year after star running back Leon Allen went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2. Because of that, Wales hurried back from his own injury, saying he’s not yet 100 percent.
“But I feel like I’m good enough to help out my team,” he said.
Wales amassed 8,213 rushing yards in high school, good for third in KHSAA history when his career ended. On National Signing Day, he pledged to the Hilltoppers over the University of Louisville but had to heal up from another injury before seeing the field in college.
The 5-10, 195-pounder emerged in 2014, leading WKU with his 6.3 yards-per-carry average. Originally anticipated this year as part of a 1-2 punch with Allen, working with Ferby has also been effective for Wales.
“He kind of gives us a different element,” Brohm said. “He’s got some speed to him, some elusiveness. Ferby is more of a strong, physical back with some power so we’ve got to make sure those guys continue to improve and get better.”
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