BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -Matt Flynn is easily underestimated.
For one, he had to spend five years at LSU to get one season as starting quarterback.
And Flynn says little to discourage anyone from seeing him as a no-frills, blue-collar quarterback who just plays within the system and tries not to mess up.
``I think the No. 1 stat for any quarterback is wins and losses,'' Flynn said this week, as top-ranked LSU (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) prepared to play at No. 17 Kentucky (5-1, 1-1) on Saturday.
``I realize I'm on a team of tremendous athletes and I don't have to be flashy. I don't have to make plays all by myself. All I really have to do is maintain the ball, be smart, get the ball to play makers and do the little things.''
If wins and losses do comprise the No. 1 statistic for any quarterback, then Flynn has the makings of a great one: in six career starts, he hasn't lost yet.
Yes, helped by a dominant defense and seemingly endless supply of fast, talented running backs and receivers, Flynn has been able to lead LSU to wins by double-digit margins in all but one of his starts.
And he even shares snaps with sophomore Ryan Perrilloux, an option threat whom coach Les Miles uses intermittently to give defenses a different look.
But the main reason LSU's record remains unblemished is the way he responded when he had to rally the Tigers from behind, last Saturday against Florida.
LSU trailed by 10, with just over 10 minutes left, and had a fourth-and-3 on the Gators' 4-yard line. In what seemed a risky and stubborn move, Miles sent Flynn out for a passing play when all LSU needed was a chip-shot field goal to make it a one-possession game.
When Flynn dropped back, there was no one open. His primary target, Demetrius Byrd, was double-covered.
Flynn didn't panic.
``I saw he wasn't sure what to do because he had two guys on him,'' Flynn said of Byrd. ``So I kind of sat there in the pocket, made the defensive end crash down on me, and rolled out to the right.''
Once Flynn got into space, he had the Gators where he wanted them. He started to accelerate upfield as if he had decided to take it in himself, forcing defenders to decide whether to stay in coverage or move up to defend the run.
Just before Flynn passed the line of scrimmage, the defenders covering Byrd flinched. Flynn pulled up hard, and with a flick of the wrist hit Byrd in the end zone, putting the Tigers in position to win the game 28-24.
``That's a play he made basically by himself,'' said LSU receiver Jared Mitchell, who was on the field for the play. ``He's great in his own way. He makes a lot of key throws and he can move with the ball in his hands as well. There's so many athletes here, he doesn't always have to do things out of the ordinary, but that's not to say that he can't.''
Flynn has the right pedigree to play under center. His father, Alvin, played quarterback at Baylor in the late 1960s. But the younger Flynn said he never felt pressure to play quarterback, or football, even while growing up in football-crazy east Texas. Flynn said he didn't decide try out for quarterback until seventh grade, and only then did his father seriously discuss the mechanics of the position with him.
At Robert E. Lee high school in Tyler, Flynn became a starter his junior season and quickly, to his own surprise, caught the eyes of recruiters.
``I didn't have any thought of playing in college because I didn't even start my sophomore year,'' Flynn recalled.
But a number of big schools came after him, and he narrowed his choices to LSU and Alabama, having long been fascinated by the SEC. He attended a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium, and that was it.
``I grew up going to all the Big 12 games and all that stuff,'' Flynn said. ``Nothing compares to being here on Saturday night. It's a different atmosphere. You can't explain it, really, unless you see it.''
Flynn's problem was that then-LSU coach Nick Saban also was recruiting JaMarcus Russell. When Russell enrolled at LSU, it essentially doomed Flynn to backup status until Russell turned pro after his junior season and was drafted first overall by the Oakland Raiders.
``I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Man, I should have been playing all this time,''' Flynn said. ``I can't say that because JaMarcus is obviously a great player and obviously was great for this program.''
Flynn got only one start before this season, when Russell was hurt for the 2005 Peach Bowl. LSU demolished Miami 40-3 in that game, in which Flynn threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Miles said Flynn's ability to lead LSU to such a big victory in his first start demonstrated that the low-key quarterback had not just good physical skills but the mental ability to put it all together.
``He understands when to throw it and when not to throw it. When to pull it and run,'' Miles said. ``He understands the offense, about safety rotation, where the ball's got to go even if it's not to the primary receiver. He's a student of the game. To me, that intangible may be the difference between being a good quarterback and a championship quarterback.''
And after last week's victory, LSU's championship dream remains alive and well, with Flynn playing a leading role in what for him is essentially a one-season college career.
``It's not the way I was looking at it in high school when I signed, but I feel very fortunate to be able to stick it out and have such a great team that I'm able to lead,'' Flynn said. ``I wouldn't trade being on this team and this one year for anything - not for four years starting somewhere else. I feel very blessed.''
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