Real life has already surpassed any realistic expectations, so Jonathan Smith today goes for the whole dream.
He gets to try to beat UCLA.
So great a USC fan while growing up was Smith that when he played at the Coliseum earlier this season with Oregon State, he sneaked a few two-finger victory salutes when the Trojan band played "Conquest," close to the vest to make sure no teammates noticed. Not that he turned down a USC scholarship to become a Beaver. In fact, he didn't turn down a free ride anywhere. Glendora High's 5-foot-10 quarterback took recruiting trips to Humboldt State, which doesn't offer scholarships, and UC Davis, which didn't at the time, and then to Oregon State, which didn't offer one to him.
Liking the idea of a change of scenery from Southern California and figuring that being at the biggest school possible would be an advantage when he started to pursue a coaching career, Smith decided to walk on at Corvallis.
Strong-armed but undersized, Smith played on the scout team and redshirted last season as a freshman after walking on. He was third string at the start of this season and seemed on course to finish it that way, until coaches said they might give him a look. It happened Oct. 17 against Arizona, when starter Terrance Bryant went down with back spasms. Smith's second pass went for a touchdown.
Bryant started again the next week, at Washington. Smith played early in the second quarter, only to relinquish the job again at the start of the third. After two possessions, though, Coach Mike Riley went back to Smith, and Smith went into the record books, throwing for 469 yards.
It was the seventh-best mark in conference history and a school record. The Beavers lost, 35-34, when their two-point conversion failed on the final play.
"It is kind of overwhelming," he said. "Just to realize how far I've come and how quickly things changed."
They changed again last week, when he completed only 17 of 58 passes against California. But Riley, after considering a change back to Bryant, announced he will stay with Smith against UCLA.