You know the story. FIU cornerback Richard Leonard's 100-yard fumble return -- the NCAA doesn't count end zone yardage on returns -- landed on FAU Thursday like a Joe Frazier left hook on Muhammad Ali's jaw. Instead of being tied 17-17, FIU led 24-10 in the third quarter. It was only the fourth 100-yard fumble return in the last 22 years. If that wasn't the knockout blow -- and the feel of the game said it was -- then you'd have to look at Leonard's end zone interception in the fourth quarter that kept FIU up 24-10. The Panthers eventually won 38-10. Leonard had four official pass breakups.
For this, Leonard became the first player since Houston linebacker Wayne Rogers (not this guy) in 2000 to repeat as Conference USA Defensive Player of the week. The last player to go back-to-back is. Leonard, last week's National Defensive Back of the Week according to the College Football Performance Awards, got an Honorable Mention from that group this week.
Leonard ranks seventh in punt returns (17.8 yards per return), 14th in combined kick return yardage (377), ninth in interceptions per game (four in six games, 0.67) and 16th in passes broken up per game (1.5 per game).
As a unit, the FIU defense/special teams coverage unit ranks in the FBS top 10 percent on: fumbles recovered (first, 13); turnovers gained (first, 21); passes intercepted (12th, eight); red zone defense (fourth, 0.60 TD allowance rate); and, as a team, turnover margin (third, 2.17 per game).