There were also milestones on the offensive line for Purdue, starting with three honorable mention all-conference players in both 2009 and 2010.
In 2011, the Boilermakers had 11 100-yard rushing efforts, including 393 against Southeast Missouri and 265 in the bowl game. Two linemen were selected in the NFL draft - tackle Dennis Kelly (fifth round, Eagles) and guard Nick Mondek (sixth, Texans). Kelly made the Eagles' roster, debuting last week at Arizona.
With a week left until Purdue starts Big Ten play against Michigan, Clark and Hope are still fine-tuning their rotation. Top veterans include senior center Rick Schmeig and junior right tackle Trevor Foy, who have combined for 31 of the unit's 64 career starts.
"That's one position we're starting to achieve some continuity," Hope said of the line. "The same five guys have been the starters now for a couple of weeks in a row. Even though we have some veterans back, it's not the most experienced offensive line."
Being in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers don't have small linemen by usual standards - they run 6-foot-5, 300 pounds; 6-6, 302; 6-3, 305; 6-7, 320; and 6-7, 300.
Then again . . .
"In this conference, that's not a very big offensive line, to be honest with you," Clark said. "It's one of the smaller lines in the conference. We use our athleticism, our speed to our advantage."
Clark is eager to renew West Virginia ties - he says he rooted for Marshall and WVU growing up, and checks their scores religiously (after the Appalachian State score, of course). He last crossed paths with the Thundering Herd in 2002 at the GMAC Bowl, which served as the triumphant finale for MU quarterback Byron Leftwich and the infamous exit for Louisville coach John L. Smith.
Then there were three slugfests with Marshall, in which Clark's Mountaineers went 2-1. When Clark returned to action in 2008 after a back injury, the Herd was off to Division I-A.
Now Clark is preparing to see white helmets with a green "M" again. He is fired up about Saturday's game, but then again, he'll be fired up for the next one, too.
"It's exciting to be part of the Big Ten, and to be in such a great conference," he said. "It's definitely a dream come true to have a job at this level, for sure."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.