ATLANTA — Following Florida A&M’s 38-33 win over Southern, Rattlers running back Lavante Page was asked to retell what he saw on his first-quarter, 2-yard touchdown run.
“The first touchdown I scored? Ummm,” Page said as he tried to recall the play.
He couldn’t remember. After all, he did finish with five rushing touchdowns, setting a school record.
Page also found the end zone on a 13-yard run in the second quarter and the final three scoring plays of the game
as Florida A&M came back from a 33-17 deficit to beat Southern.
The career day was fitting for Page, who returned to his hometown, growing up just minutes away from the Georgia Dome in the nearby Oakland City neighborhood.
It hadn’t been since his days in junior high when Page played at Atlanta’s Forest Park Middle School that he put up numbers like he did Saturday.
Page finished with 16 carries for 73 yards in front of a crowd of 59,373 — a handful of which were friends and family that came out to support him.
“No telling (how many people I had in the stands),” Page said. “My momma came about 60 deep.”
Page, who gave a “shoutout” to his linemen and fullback, was just grateful for being able to play. He was close to never playing again two years ago, when following a 100-yard performance, he was shot in the arm as he was walking from Tallahassee’s Bragg Stadium to his car. The bullet went directly through his right forearm, forcing Page to miss the remainder of his sophomore season.
The Rattlers ran for a total of 140 yards as Eddie Rocker contributed 67 to give Florida A&M its best performance on the ground this season.
Despite the 16-point deficit, Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor chose to stick with the running game.
“We felt like time was still on our side,” Taylor said. “We didn’t need to come out and start winging the ball from left to right, but mix in a few runs and not panic.”
The Rattlers’ comeback began in the third quarter when backup quarterback Damien Fleming entered after starter Austin Trainor threw an interception that was returned 59 yards for the Jaguars’ final score.
Fleming’s first drive stalled, and the Rattlers were forced to punt. It appeared that the game would be set in stone after Branden Holdren’s punt was blocked by Jared Detrick. But as the ball bounced around near the line of scrimmage, Southern’s Jamie Payton jumped in the air in an attempt to recover the ball. He mishandled the loose ball, making it live. The Rattlers recovered, and eight plays later Page capped off a 50-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Fleming, who is more mobile than Trainor, completed 6 of 8 passes for 76 yards.
“At the time, I felt like we just needed some energy,” Taylor said. “We needed a shot in the arm. I knew that he could buy some time with his mobility.”
Following Page’s third touchdown, the Rattlers got the ball back after John Williams intercepted Joseph Dray’s pass.
With all the momentum on their side, the Rattlers took the ball 36 yards on five plays,
ending with Page’s fourth touchdown — a 2-yard run — to cut Florida A&M’s deficit to 33-31.
Page’s final touchdown came with 3:13 remaining on another 2-yard push over the goal line to give the Rattlers the win.
That was one he sure won’t forget.