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Brooks wants short memory

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- On the field, there was a celebration. Players and coaches basked in the moment as TV cameras panned over EJ Manuel and Jimbo Fisher embracing following the biggest win of their careers at Florida State.

A second later, the images of elation were replaced by a shot of one man, Terrence Brooks, alone on the bench, his head hung in dejection. After a moment, he looked up, clapped his hands in appreciation of a victory, but his expression still bore the weight of his personal shortcomings in a game his team had just won handily.

Soon after Brooks returned to the locker room, he got a phone call from his grandmother. She was angry with him, not because of the blown coverage on Clemson's first touchdown or the missed opportunity for an interception on the Tigers' final score.

She was angry because Brooks had sulked when he should have celebrated.

"She was telling me, 'I don't ever want to see you like that again,'" Brooks said. "So many people were blowing up my phone saying I played an amazing game, 12 tackles, all of that. I just didn't see it."

Brooks was a monster Saturday. His 12 tackles led the way for Florida State's defense. He was the point man when Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd broke free from the backfield. He was the last line of defense against Clemson's ferocious aerial attack.

Brooks was tested for 60 minutes, and for the bulk of them, he was good. But all he remembered were the two plays when he wasn't.

"I felt like I was all over the field," Brooks said. "I felt like I did a good job of tackling in that game. Of course, I had two missed opportunities, and somehow I let that overshadow the performance I did have."

The first looked ugly, and Brooks had nowhere to hide.

It came on Clemson's first drive, on a third-and-7. Brooks was the safety over the top, ensuring Boyd didn't beat the Seminoles with a deep ball. His eyes were on Boyd the whole time, and he failed to notice DeAndre Hopkins whiz by down the sideline.

In an instant, the ball was in the air, over Brooks' head. He leapt after it, flailing desperately to make a play, even getting a finger on the ball before it landed safely in Hopkins' hands for an easy touchdown.

"I was really playing the ball, and I had no clue that guy was even there on that play," Brooks said. "At the last second I saw he was there and I was like, 'Oh crap.'"

The moment rattled around in Brooks' mind for the rest of the game, and in the fourth quarter, with the Seminoles' win all but assured, he saw his chance at redemption.

It was fourth-and-goal with two minutes to play. Boyd took the snap and rolled to his right. The corner responsible for Brandon Ford abdicated his coverage, but Brooks knew what was coming.

Boyd tossed across his body, back across the field, and Brooks saw his future in slow motion. He had a beat on the ball, and he had 100 yards of open field in front of him. It would be the easiest touchdown he'd ever score.

Instead, the pass floated just over his head and into Ford's hands. It was a meaningless Clemson touchdown that meant the world to Brooks.

"I wanted to score on that so bad," Brooks said. "I could just picture everything happening. I was very hard on myself."

On the first play, Brooks was alone on an island, and he came just a few feet from making a play.

On the second, he picked up for a teammate who'd blown an assignment, and he was merely inches from an interception.

But that's not how it looked to the fans who packed the stands, and it's not the image that played over and over in Brooks' mind as he sat alone on the bench for the final two minutes of a momentous win.

"In the games, people see whose there by the ball," Brooks said. "Of course I took heat for it, and I was hard on myself for it. I tried to make that interception. I wanted it so bad."

His grandmother insisted he move on, but Brooks had trouble shaking the memory of the two plays he'd failed to make.

Eventually, he picked up the phone and called Manuel. His quarterback was the one person who could understand, could empathize.

"He goes through that every day," Brooks said. "One day fans are all with him, and as soon as he throws an interception or has an off game, they're like, 'Oh we need to replace you.' "

Manuel's advice wasn't much different from Brooks' grandmother's. The ugly plays provide lessons, but they shouldn't be a burden.

The two talked for more than a half-hour -- about football, but more about life, and the harsh realities that come with the judgement of strangers.

It wasn't enough to shake Brooks' mind from the mistakes, but it was enough to make him consider them in a new light.

"I really can't do that to myself anymore, just let two plays overshadow my performance," Brooks said. "I mean, you learn from it. I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen again. I'm not going to let it happen again. That's not me, that's not how I play."

Fisher didn't assign blame. He called Brooks' play against Clemson "solid." He isn't covering for the mistakes of his first-year safety, nor is he apologizing for them. He wants Brooks to learn from them, but not be weighed down by them.

"He made 12 tackles in the game," Fisher said. "When you go against some of their skill guys, they're going to make a few plays on you. You have to have a short memory and be able to come back."

This week, Brooks will be in a familiar position.

He'll be tasked with keeping tabs on a mobile quarterback. He'll be tested against a USF team that bides its time before unleashing the deep ball when a safety wanders out of position.

Brooks promises this time will be better, but more importantly, it will be easier to forget.

"I'm ready," he said. "I want someone else to come at me. You want all the opportunities you can, and I'm going to take every one I can get."