FAU linebacker Leighton McCarthy named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week

McCarthy forced a fumble that set up an Owls touchdown in the third quarter, which was the only turnover of the game.


Owls linebacker Leighton McCarthy’s performance against the 49ers earned him C-USA defensive player of the week honors. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Colby Guy, Features Editor

FAU outside linebacker Leighton McCarthy was named Conference USA defensive player of the week on Monday after a dominant performance in the Owls’ 21-17 win against Charlotte.

The redshirt senior totaled 10 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble to help lead FAU to victory. All of those totals were career highs for McCarthy.

His biggest play of the game came in the third quarter, where he sacked Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Caliph Brice at the 49ers’ 16-yard line with 2:45 to go in the third quarter. That forced fumble was the only turnover of the game.

Quarterback Nick Tronti would find wide receiver TJ Chase in the end zone for a touchdown on the next play to put the Owls up 21-10. 

McCarthy also had a key sack on Charlotte’s opening drive, as the nine-yard sack helped force the 49ers to settle for a field goal. He also totaled five tackles in the first half, including two on the opening drive.

McCarthy made the move to linebacker from defensive end, a position he played in three prior seasons with the Owls this off-season. The move has paid off so far for head coach Willie Taggart and new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.

The Owls needed him to step up in his new position, as they had lost three starting linebackers, including second-team C-USA player Akileis Leroy, Rashad Smith, and Hosea Barnwell V.

He is utilized as an edge rusher from the linebacker position, where he has been lethal at rushing the quarterback and getting sacks as shown by his performance on Saturday.

Last season, McCarthy totaled 30 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, and six sacks in 14 games from the defensive end position. He already has a third of the number of tackles he had all of the 2019 season in Saturday’s game against Charlotte.

In his FAU career, McCarthy has 131 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 43 games.

McCarthy will look to continue his strong start to the season next week against C-USA opponent Southern Miss. The game will be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. on Stadium.

Colby Guy is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @thatguycolbs