Defensive Tone

<b>Antonio Cromartie</b> returned a fumble 61 yards for Florida State's only touchdown in its 16-10 overtime defeat at Miami last Friday. He also had an over-the-shoulder interception in the fourth quarter to stop one UM drive and nearly had another that could have sealed the game in the closing minutes. Cromartie's physical skill is one reason why the sophomore from Lincoln High is earmarked as the Seminoles' next dominating cornerback.

Antonio Cromartie expects to play in Florida State's home-opener Saturday against testy Alabama-Birmingham.

Cromartie was forced to leave the Miami game on the Hurricanes' game-tying drive with an injured right hip. Cromartie said he initially hurt his hip during preseason workouts.

After a few days of rest and tests, including X-rays that came back negative, Cromartie is anxious to get back on the field.

And it's on the field where Cromartie is developing into the Seminoles' next dominating cornerback. But reaching that goal is not easy.

Of course, FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who produced an All-America selection at cornerback for eight consecutive seasons starting with Deion Sanders in 1987, is quick to stress greatness is developed in practice and displayed in games.

"I told Cro this during two-a-days that the biggest difference between he and Deion was Deion had a passion for getting better," Andrews said. "He came to work every day and outworked everybody.

"Cro doesn't have terrible work habits -- I am not saying that -- but to reach greatness your goal is to become a dominating player. That's not easy, I don't care how skilled you are. It demands tremendous desire, both physically and mentally."

Cromartie and FSU expects to have their hands full against UAB. The Blazers (1-0), who were off last week after whipping Baylor 56-14 on Sept. 4. UAB totaled 516 yards of offense, including 343 rushing yards. UAB's defense also contributed to the scoring, returning one interception and one fumble recovery for touchdowns.

The Blazers reached their highest point total since becoming a Division 1-A team in 1996.

FSU's defense registered 44 "big plays" against the Hurricanes, including 15 tackles for a loss, according to Andrews. Andrews, who said "big plays" include plays like Cromarties' interception and fumble recovery for a touchdown, was pleased with his unit's effort against the Hurricanes but disappointed by the finish.

UM rallied for 10 fourth-quarter points to send the game into overtime.

"Even though we played pretty darn good, we made enough mistakes that wouldn't allow us to pull it out at the end, Anderws said. "It's a shame because the darn kids had fought so hard and got put into some bad situations and bailed their way out.

"The thing that's so disappointing is we talk about winning the fourth quarter. We gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter. We had them beat and just let it slip right through our hands"


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