While playing football at Winona State in his native Minnesota, Mike Cook felt what he described as an itch. The linebacker was enjoying his experience at the Division II school but had decided it might be time to try playing at a higher level.
Now, entering the final game of his collegiate career, the redshirt senior has thrived in his new environment at Robert Morris.
This season, Cook is the anchor of the Colonials defense, recording a team-high 111 tackles, fourth among all Division I-AA players and five tackles away from the school’s single-season record of 116.
Cook’s standout performance, according to defensive coordinator Scott Farison, is a sign of a transfer who is fully acclimated to and is flourishing in his new surrounding.
“The biggest thing is he’s comfortable now with what we’re doing,” Farison said. “Last year, he got better and better with every game. You could see it. And this year, he just hit the ground running.”
In 10 games this season, Cook has not had fewer than six tackles in a game. He had 19 tackles in a Sept. 14 loss to Dayton, which tied him for third for the most tackles in a game in program history. Among those he tied with in that category is Alex DiMichele, who played for the Colonials from 2008-10 and is now a graduate assistant with the team.
DiMichele also owns the program’s single-season record for tackles, a record Cook will break if he gets six Saturday against Saint Francis.
“It’d be nice to break it,” Cook said. “The best thing would have been going to the playoffs, but obviously certain things happened. The best thing to do would be to win this game and finish out strong.”
Kalkstein sets CMU mark
With a 21-yard touchdown pass last Saturday against Case Western Reserve, Carnegie Mellon quarterback Rob Kalkstein set the school’s career passing yardage record. Kalkstein, a Gateway graduate, finished his career with 5,664 yards and also set the school record for career completions earlier this season. In his final collegiate game Saturday, a 35-32 loss, he threw for a career-high 327 yards.
“It definitely adds to the season,” Kalkstein said. “It will be nice to be able to look back and know that I have that record.”
Local products honored
The PSAC all-conference teams announced earlier this week include several former WPIAL and City League players. Among the local products who made first-team all-PSAC West were Slippery Rock offensive lineman Cory Tucker (South Park), Mercyhurst tight end R.J. Miller (North Hills), Slippery Rock wide receiver John Schademan (Bethel Park), Slippery Rock defensive lineman Derek Walker (Brashear), California defensive lineman BJ Stevens (Gateway), Seton Hill linebacker Tyler Zimmer (Penn-Trafford), Slippery Rock linebacker Gary Allen (North Allegheny), IUP defensive back Terrell Holloway (Penn Hills), and Slippery Rock defensive backs Austin Miele (Mars) and Anthony Saunders (Valley).
Soccer statistics stars
The soccer seasons are over for the Robert Morris men’s team and the Saint Francis women’s team, but each had a player wind up in high statistical standing among their peers. Colonials sophomore forward Neco Brett finished the season with 14 goals, tying him for third among Division I players, and Red Flash senior forward Tesa McKibben scored 20 goals, the sixth most in Division I.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.