When running back Robert Washington signed with the Charlotte 49ers last spring, he expected to see playing time, but not make an impact right away.
With senior starter Kalif Phillips sidelined with a hamstring injury, that’s exactly what’s happening with the East Gaston High graduate.
After a two-touchdown performance Sept. 10 against Elon, Washington had a career-high 120 rushing yards for Charlotte (1-2) its 37-19 home loss to Eastern Michigan (2-1) Saturday night.
That’s the most rushing yards by a 49ers freshman since Phillips gained 132 against Coastal Carolina in 2013, and the 12th-best rushing game in the program’s four-year history.
“It was amazing,” said Washington, who leads Charlotte with 196 rushing yards after three games. “But I wasn’t really focused on the (statistics), I’m more sad that we lost. That’s why I was really focused on what I can do for the team.
“The offensive line did an amazing job. The rest is doing what I’m coached, hit the hole and make some guys miss.”
Washington has been productive for the 49ers in all three games. He had a team-best 33 yards on five carries in the season-opening loss to then-No. 19 Louisville, then added 43 yards and the two scores in the win against Elon.
“He’s physically ready,” coach Brad Lambert said of Washington, who is 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds. “That’s what you’re never really for sure about on freshmen. His body allows him to be ready to play, to make some plays and bounce off and make some people miss tackles.
“He’s been a huge plus for us. We kinda rode him there, especially in the second half.”
Offense’s slow starts
One thing troubling Lambert over the 49ers’ first three games is the offense’s struggles to move the ball, especially in the first quarter.
Charlotte has yet to score in the opening 15 minutes, with three first downs and 92 yards offense total over the three-game span, and 0-for-10 on third-down conversions.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about,” Lambert said. “We’ve practiced to where we can try to start fast, so it’s something we’re trying to get done. But we’ve just got to make some plays out there.”