Ellis Brooks on controversial targeting call, big-time performance
Penn State football linebacker Ellis Brooks could live with the suspension that came with his fourth-quarter targeting call.
He could live with missing the first half of what could be his final home opener in a Penn State uniform next week against Ball State.
The 15-yard chunk of Penn State territory Brooks' penalty handed to a Wisconsin team that would have been facing a fourth-down situation in a one-score game? That was tough to take.
"The thing that hurt the most was the 15 yards afterwards," Brook said. "It's one thing if I can't play, but I hate hurting my team. I hate putting them in a rough position, especially if I can't be out there to go get it back."
For Brooks, it was an unfitting end to an excellent performance — one that reminded Penn State fans around the country of his abilities after the Nittany Lion linebackers suffered through a difficult 2020.
His teammates picked him up.
Everything came up rosy for the Nittany Lions despite the controversial penalty. Had the result gone the other way, the question would dominate the postgame discourse: Was it the right call?
"I's obviously a tough call," Brooks said. "We're playing a physical sport. And in my position, a big guy like [Mertz], he's on the sideline, I'm trying to get him out of bounds. At the end of the day I know they're just trying to keep us all safe. It's rough. It's a rough call, especially playing defense in this league. They're trying to just keep everybody safe. You wonder, at what point is both sides accountable? Other than that, it's football. You've just got live with it now."
"It's a tough call," Penn State head coach James Franklin said. "The way I understand the rules is you can't necessarily get called for targeting on the ball carrier unless you use the crown of your helmet, but I get it. We're going to do everything we can to protect the student-athletes. It's a tough call for Ellis, I thought he played pretty well."
It's true, the call could overshadow what was otherwise an exceptional performance by Brooks, the veteran within the Penn State linebacker room playing between a first-time starter in Curtis Jacobs and Brandon Smith, who started at Will linebacker having previously played the Sam role.
In a grueling game that called for levels of physicality fans of old-school football would truly appreciate, Brooks showed his mettle.
He led the Nittany Lions with 11 total tackles — eight of them solo efforts — and brought Mertz down for a sack as well.
Wisconsin ran the ball an astounding 58 times, the most the Nittany Lions have faced in a single game since Ohio State went to the ground 61 times in a game in 2019.
With the Penn State offense turning in three-and-out after three-and-out in the first half, the Badgers hoped to set the Nittany Lions up for the knockout punch late. The Penn State defense was on the field for more than two-thirds of this contest, but Brooks and the rest of the Nittany Lions met the challenge with equal aggression — and even enthusiasm.
"That was meant to be body shots," Brooks said, "to wear us down on defense, to get us to play more timid, not be behind our pads like how we were playing all game. At the end of the day, we love ball, that's what we love doing. They want to get physical, we can get physical right back.
"That's how I grew up. I've been playing ball since I was four years old. Every team I played against, it was Power, it was ISO. So, in the back of my head, I know this type of ball. I love this type of ball. Pad-on-pad."
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