- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There were two lasting images following Florida State's emotional 49-37 victory over Clemson last year. The first was of the Seminoles' jubilant celebration on the field in Tallahassee after the clock hit zeroes. The second was of safety Terrence Brooks, head hung, watching his teammates from the bench.
It's been more than a year, but as Florida State prepares for this year's showdown against Clemson, Brooks' frustration after allowing two touchdowns in that game still weighs heavily on the senior safety.
"I want to get a little payback," Brooks said. "I hate people scoring on me. I feel like that game last year really threw people off on how I can play, and it makes no sense to me."
The way it all happened remains skewed by perspective -- both for fans and for Brooks.
The reality of last year's game was that Brooks finished with a team-high 12 tackles. He allowed one long touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, who is now playing in the NFL. He allowed another short TD late in the fourth quarter, with FSU already up big. It wasn't even Brooks' assignment, and he nearly picked off the pass that floated just out of his reach. In the year since, Brooks has established himself as one of the ACC's most consistent defensive backs.
And yet, the perception of fans, Brooks said, is much different.
"It makes me mad that people let that overshadow my whole play," he said. "Plenty of people in history have gotten scored on, and I'm pretty sure they didn't think like that. But it is what it is. Florida State holds a standard, and I understand how people want you to play. I hold a standard to myself that I play better than that. I know I was mad that I gave up the touchdown."
Brooks was mad then, and he's mad now. And that anger has fueled a year of hard work with an eye on redemption.
When Brooks took the field against Clemson last year, it was a new experience. In his first season as a full-time starter, the Tigers' offense was a whirlwind. He hadn't faced a unit that worked at such a rapid tempo, and he hadn't encountered a quarterback as dangerous as Tajh Boyd. He paid the price for his inexperience, but he learned from it.
"I hate people scoring on me, and I'm going into this game with a much stronger attitude," Brooks said. "I feel like a totally different player. I'm definitely not how I was last year. I'm going out there to play my game."
For the past year, Brooks' game has been as good as anyone's. He finished last season with 52 tackles -- tops among FSU's defensive backs -- and two interceptions on a unit that led the nation in passing defense. So far this season, he's chalked up 24 tackles and a pick, and he's been the anchor of a secondary that features new starters at every other position, including true freshman Jalen Ramsey at the other safety spot.
As much as his performance against Clemson last year stung, it's made him better.
"From that point on, I drew a line and said, 'I'm not going to get scored on again,' " Brooks said. "That started from that game to now, how I've been working. I'm prepared for big games like this, and I plan on having a big game."
Fellow senior Lamarcus Joyner likes to hear that confidence, but he said he hopes Brooks hasn't let what happened a year ago define him. Brooks came to Florida State as the three-star recruit alongside touted prospects, and he's always played with a chip on his shoulder, but there's a time to let go, Joyner said.
That time for Brooks might be Saturday, when he finally gets his shot at redemption against Boyd and the Tigers.
"I still know what I can do, and I know I can go out there and play with the best of them," Brooks said. "I feel like I've been showing it this season and really trying to take it to the next level."
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