Dom DeCicco has been among the team's leading tacklers this season and has been the top Pittsburgh tackler the past five games. He also has a team-high two interceptions, and his solid play in the Panthers' 41-14 win against South Florida Saturday earned DeCicco Big East defensive player of the week honors.
DeCicco (Jefferson Hills, Pa. and Thomas Jefferson High School), who had significant run support responsibilities against the Bulls, compiled a team-high 10 tackles with nine solo to lead an impressive Pitt defensive effort. USF managed only 212 total yards after averaging 407.3 yards and 33.7 points per game this season.
"We've had some ups and downs this season, but we've dealt with a lot of adversity,'' DeCicco said. "We had a stretch like this last year, a bunch of tough games, and except for Cincinnati on the road, we were pretty successful. So, that prepared us for (all the) games this season.
"As a defense, it's been kind of hectic and tough to get a comfort zone with the injuries and all the different guys substituting in. But we're getting there, a lot more comfortable, and I think you can see that on the field. We're playing much better in the secondary than we did earlier this season.''
DeCicco leads the Panthers with 62 total tackles, including 42 solo stops, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one tackle behind the line.
A 6-foot-3, 230-pound second-year starter, DeCicco ranks seventh in the Big East with 7.8 tackles per game. And he has helped Pitt defense gain national top-30 rankings in three different categories this week. The Panthers are 21st nationally in rushing defense (102.13 yards per game), 24th in scoring defense (18 points per game) and 26th in total defense (314.13 yards per game).
The win against South Forida pushed Pitt to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big East, and it marks the Panthers' best record after eight games since 1982.
Pitt continues to climb in the national polls with a No. 16 ranking by The Associated Press and No. 17 in the USA Today coaches' poll. In the latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings, the Panthers are rated No. 15.
Following an open date this week, Pitt returns to action Nov. 7 when it plays host to Syracuse at noon at Heinz Field. The game will be an ESPNU national telecast.
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