Newton had two separate injuries against Mississippi State. He first hurt his shoulder, then he injured his ankle which kept him out for the remainder of the contest.
Joker Phillips inserted his freshman quarterback into the game and while he didn't lead the Wildcats to victory, he gave a glimmer of hope to Wildcat backers who watched the game.
"He went in and competed, made some throws early. We gave him some easy throws, gave him some confidence," Phillips said after the game.
Smith completed his share of short passes, but he also threw the ball down field with touch. And more importantly, Smith showed the ability to go through his progressions and spread the ball around the field, not just focusing on one target.
For the game, Smith completed 25 of 33 passes for 174 yards. He didn't have a touchdown pass, but he showed that he could move his team up and down the field against an SEC defense.
To put Smith's performance in perspective, junior starter Morgan Newton completed 23 passes for 194 yards in the last four games, total.
"We've got to make some kind of decision. Smith played good enough that we've got to make the decision. He's going to have an opportunity to compete for the starting job," Phillips said.
Based on fan reaction, for what that's worth, Smith is the clear starter after his performance. He demonstrated poise, arm strength, touch and the ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Unfortunately during his two plus years on campus, Morgan Newton has struggled to show any of those attributes consistently.
Smith will need to show consistency too. In his previous games against LSU and South Carolina, he had only completed seven passes for 50 yards and two interceptions in 19 passes. But it's possible that the light has come on for the Californian.
"If I can get him to go to the practice field with that same sense of urgency and that same intensity, it will be interesting to see how good he can get," said Offensive Coordinator Randy Sanders.
Smith believes that some extra work he put in may have led him to this performance against the Bulldogs.
"I played pretty good. I was seeing stuff a lot better than I was in the previous two weeks. I was spending a lot of extra time with Andre Woodson and Coach Sanders. He was explaining stuff to me, a lot of stuff I was doing wrong, seeing safeties. I did a lot better job of that today," Smith said.
Smith very well may have done enough to earn a starting nod against the Ole Miss Rebels next week in Commonwealth Stadium.
"I'm just going to prepared like I do every other week and just go with the flow."