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Langi makes most of his circus appearance from defense to offense in BYU's win

Harvey Langi to the rescue.

With school career rushing leader Jamaal Williams out with an ankle injury for the second straight week, Langi switched from defense to offense.

And it worked in BYU’s most dominating performance of the season, a 51-9 shellacking of UMass on Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Langi scored two touchdowns on runs of 5 and 2 yards and ripped off a long run of 15 yards as part of his 62 yards gained on 14 carries. He even had a leaping cartwheel jump over a tackler he almost pulled off by regaining his feet.

“I started catching on as the reps went on,” said Langi. “It was crazy being on that side,” said Langi.

The big Tongan defensive end/middle linebacker returned to his Bingham High roots as a ball carrier. It was a role he dominated as a big-time star at that level back in the day. It is a position Utah signed him to play before he left for a two-year LDS mission.

“It was super fun,” Langi said.

“I could have driven my car through that hole,” Langi said of one of his TDs. He looked around and his offensive line had already left the field for the bench. “On defense, we all celebrate and pile on.”

He credited the offensive line, however. “Any crease, I just put my head down and went for it. There’s room for a lot of improvement.”

Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said he had no problem giving up his defensive end to the offense. It helped that middle linebacker Butch Pau’u returned from knee injury. Langi had played Pau’u’s spot too.

“It was good for the team,” said Tuiaki.

He said it was good for Langi at the next level. “If you're looking for a DE that can run, play the middle and carry the ball, it brings a lot of value to any team he goes to.”

Langi said third-string running back KJ Hall, who had a 100-yard rushing day, was the shake and bake Saturday and he was the “diesel truck.” But he added, “I kind of took off like a Delta flight” on that leap.”

Tuiaki said watching Langi was fun. “If you’re on the defensive side, he’s a big, bruising back that’s going to wear you down. It looked like there was a couple of times he must have punished some guys.”

Ty Detmer welcomed the help, but experience told him it might not have come off satin smooth. He feared execution problems, a challenge at reading zone blocks, and the ever possibility of a fumbled hand-off. “We were calling two hands, two hands on the ball all week.”

Detmer hadn’t been around Langi as a running back but knew he had it in him because Kyle Whittingham recruited him to be an RB. “At the beginning of the week we were like, ‘It looks good, but we aren’t really in a game, we’ll see.’”

In practice, Detmer said he looked great. “There were still some nuances, reading the zone scheme stuff. For not having it, he did a pretty good job today.”

Langi’s work in the backfield behind Taysom Hill began on the first day, and he got plenty of reps.

At the end of the day, when decisions were made, Detmer put it simple. “We felt it would work all week. No defensive back wants to see 260 pounds running downhill at them.

“It was very tempting to give him a lot of carries. But at the same time, it is a new position, he’s not in condition for a running back type of role, so we knew we’d have to pick our spots with him and see how he does.”

Detmer’s biggest concern was the risk of Langi not being used to positioning his body to take hits, and how he might put the ball in a position away from his body to get it taken away. A couple of times it looked risky, especially on his take-off play when he hurdled a defender and his feet got pointed skyward.

“If I’d landed on my feet, you guys with cameras would have been all over it,” Langi said.

Said Detmer, “He’ll be a guy we’ll love to keep there and mix in. If you get down near the goal line, he’s a guy who can push the pile. On short yardage situations, I know he got some time last year doing that. So, we’d love to have him in that capacity when we see who is in and who is not ready.”

Langi loved his return to that side of the ball. In the interview room, he practically held court, excuding unbridled enthusiasm for making some plays.

For the Cougars, now 7-4 heading into a season finale with Utah State next Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium, it was just that kind of day. Points galore, a jack-of-all-trades Langi, plays all over the field, a blocked punt, a pick six and a runaway affair.

EMAIL: dharmon@deseretnews.com.

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