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Football: Magalei, receivers impress in Cajuns spring game - Wiltz & Williams Remembered

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, April 14, 2019

Click here for the video of the winning play of the Spring game.

Reserve receivers Calif Gossett and Brian Smith Jr. made their cases for playing time in the fall.  

Quarterback Jai’ave Magalei made quite an impression. Clifton McDowell too.

QB Levi Lewis, by his own admission, made a few mistakes.

So it was a day to savor for some, and one to put in the rearview mirror for others, when UL played its annual spring game Saturday.

“I played alright,” said Lewis, who finished 11-of-21 for 217 yards as his Vermilion team beat the White 35-31 on a short final-play touchdown run by Elijah Mitchell. “There’s more improvement that I can make. There’s always room for improvement. A lot of improvement.

“We’re still in spring, so we’ve got time to fix it. I didn’t play my best. But it was one of the games where I took what they gave, and I made it go from there.”

Related: Napier says Lewis has 'firmed up' hold on No. 1 QB job

More: Napier a big believer in two-QB system UL used last year

Lewis said he can improve with both his short passes – something he struggled with Saturday – and with deep balls.

Reads and his running too.

“All over, really,” he said. “There’s never nowhere where you will not need improvement.”

UL coach Billy Napier’s assessment of Lewis’ play: “There were some opportunities for him to maybe make some plays early, but when it mattered the most he kind of stepped and made (them), which is a big part of who he is as a person, a competitor.”

Magalei, meanwhile, wound up 16-of-21 for 245 yards and two TDs.

Not made available to media members, the juco-transfer from the West Coast spoke volumes with his work – and perhaps tightened the gap between him and Lewis for the starting job, while also perhaps separating himself a pinch from McDowell in the battle for the No. 2 job.

More: UL quarterback commit Magalei coming off horrific injury

Magalei’s arm looked especially good.

He also impressed with his size – 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, according to Napier.

McDowell, an early high school enrollee from Texas, went 10-of-16 for 136 yards and one TD.

“Jai’ave is a talented young player,” Napier of Magalei, who played his high school ball in Washington and his juco ball in California. “You could see that Clifton has ability as well.”

Magalei and Clifton both had the 6-5 Gossett on their side, and he made the most their throws to him with seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns.

Related: Cajun receivers catch some praise following scrimmage

“Calif has really grown up and matured,” Napier said of Gossett, who has played sparingly as a Cajun.

“We’ve been talking about him (Gossett) since the summer – like, last summer. Just how explosive he is,” Lewis added. “He’s fast, he’s quick, he can move. That guy, he can go.”

Smith, a Barbe High product and an Arizona juco-transfer, had nine catches for 161 yards.

“He’s a beast, and he’s another guy behind Ja’Marcus Bradley right now that’s gonna play a big role,” Lewis said. “We’ve got (receiver) depth on our team.”

“He’s a tough kid. He plays well without the ball,” Napier added. “He’s done a really nice job on special teams, and you can see today he’s … tough to cover.”

Bradley had seven catches for 149 yards.

Defensively, UL got an interception from safety Percy Butler and a big fourth-down stop on running back Raymond Calais Jr. by cornerback Kamar Greenhouse.

“I was excited that it was very competitive. Lots of lead changes down the stretch,” Napier said. “Quarterbacks making plays, receivers making plays. Defense making stops at critical times.”

More: Out of Detroit, UL's McCaskill hopes mistakes are behind

WHAT HAPPENED

Calais opened with a short TD run set up by a keeper from Lewis, who like all Cajun QBs was non-contact, and his own two runs.

Magalei, playing first for the White, and McDowell both made early completions to Smith.

McDowell later threw a 12-yard TD pass to Gossett and Magalei a 55-yard TD that Gossett extended off a crossing pattern late in the first half to make it 14-7.

After McDowell led a scoring drive that ended in a 24-yard Bryce Broussard field goal, Lewis scored on a short run set up by a 43-yard pass to Bradley and Magalei threw a 52-yard TD that Smith caught with one hand.

Calais scored from 16 yards out for the Vermilion team on a shifty sideline run, and a few possessions later a 5-yard Mitchell run made it 28-24 Vermilion.

A 1-yard Chris Smith TD run gave the White a late lead, but after a penalty and a final bonus play awarded by Napier Mitchell ran in with the game-winner from 1 yard out.

More: Byrns came from far to punt for the Cajuns

LAGNIAPPE

The spring game was played indoors due to weather. ... Mitchell ran 18 times for 112 yards and two TDs, Calais 11 for 73 and two. ... Butler’s interception came off Magalei … Walk-on Wesley Blazek was the fourth Cajun QB to play. … In the house: ex-UL cornerback Simeon Thomas, now with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. … Honoring two longtime UL staffers who recently passed, Cajun student equipment managers wore T-shirts that on the back said “IN LOVING MEMORY OF LEONARD WILTZ & LYNN WILLIAMS.”

More: Remembering UL staffer Wiltz:

More: UL equipment manager Williams was pro who liked to play