- Associated Press - Thursday, September 27, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Isaiah Buggs helped harass Kellen Mond into an interception on Texas A&M;’s first drive and sacked him to end the Aggies’ second offensive possession.

The 6-foot-5, 286-pound defensive lineman finished the game with half of No. 1 Alabama’s seven sacks in that win last Saturday. He’s part of a cadre of edge rushers who have helped the Crimson Tide mount one of the nation’s best pass rushes this season.

It has also helped take some pressure off a young secondary by often forcing quarterbacks to get the ball off quickly.

“Sometimes when you cover people well, it’s a better opportunity to get pressure on the quarterback,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “And sometimes when you get good pressure on the quarterback, it covers up some flaws you have in the coverage.

“All these things go hand in hand. But if we’re going to be good, I think we’ve got to be able to do both well.”

Neither area has been a problem so far in four straight lopsided wins, especially the pass rush. The Tide (4-0) hosts Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

With 16 sacks, Alabama stands in a three-way tie for second in the FBS, behind Oklahoma State’s 19.

Buggs is leading the Southeastern Conference with 5.5 sacks but Christian Miller (3.5) and Anfernee Jennings (2.5) are also among the top 12.

Buggs was named the SEC player of the week for his performance against Texas A&M.; A week earlier, it was Miller who claimed the honors with two sacks and a share of another against Mississippi. Alabama has already reached double digit tackles for loss both against Texas A&M; and Louisville.

The pass rush and linebacker depth took a hit in July when linebacker Terrell Lewis sustained a torn right ACL. Lewis was also injured much of last season but had an overtime sack against Georgia in the national championship game . Plus departed linebacker Rashaan Evans, a first-round NFL draft pick, was also one of the team’s top pass rushers.

Defensive end Raekwon Davis, who led the team in sacks last season, hasn’t recorded one yet.

Buggs was regarded as more of a run-stopper last season after transferring from junior college. He’s thriving in the increased role as an edge rusher.

“It’s just the process here and all of the things that the coaches have game planned for us week in and week out,” Buggs said. “As long as we execute that as a team we’ll be fine. It’s not necessarily about me, it’s about the team.”

Saban said Texas A&M; was Buggs’ best performance but that coaches are still looking for more consistency. In the meantime, he has proven hard to block.

“He’s just a big, physical presence,” Alabama tight end Hale Hentges said. “Anytime you go against him in practice you know you have to buckle your chinstrap. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of juice. He’s hard to move off the ball.”

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