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No. 4 Michigan overcomes early struggles to top Colorado

Colorado owned an early 14-0 lead, but Michigan stormed back for a 45-28 win at The Big House.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (3-0) defeated the Colorado Buffaloes (2-1) at Michigan Stadium, 45-28. Michigan struggled early, but built momentum later on to secure the victory.

With 12:37 left in the first quarter, Colorado found the board on a 37-yard connection from Sefo Liufau to Devin Ross. Moments later, the Buffaloes took a 14-0 lead on a fumble recovery by Dave McCartney, who took the ball 18 yards into the end zone.

The Michigan defense picked up the slack and the special teams put the points on the board. Michael Jocz blocked Alex Kinney’s punt and the ball was scooped up by Grant Perry. The receiver took the ball six yards for a touchdown to cut Michigan’s deficit to seven points with 8:27 left in the first quarter.

Liufau took his time marching the Buffaloes down the field, but it did not help that Michigan missed multiple tackles on the drive. To cap it off, Liufau found Devin Ross on a six-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone, which gave Colorado a 21-7 edge.

The Wolverines cut the deficit to seven points with 8:49 left in the first half, as Jehu Chesson scored on a 17-yard jet-sweep. The score was set up on a punt by Kinney that hit off a member of Colorado’s special teams. It was ruled as a team punt for negative seven yards.

After missing a field goal in the middle of the second quarter, Kenny Allen converted from 39 yards with 1:59 left in the first half. The field goal cut Colorado’s lead to just four points.

Michigan got the ball back with 43 seconds left in the half. Just 10 seconds later, the Wolverines owned a 24-21 lead on a 45-yard score from Speight to Amara Darboh.

Speight completed 16-of-30 passes during the game for 229 yards and a touchdown. Jake Butt caught seven passes for 87 yards and Darboh made two for 51 yards.

Less than one minute into the third quarter, Shay Fields was found by Liufau wide open down the field for a 70-yard touchdown reception. While taking a 28-24 lead, Liufau was hit hard and had to be carried off the field.

Ross shined for the Colorado offense, as he caught seven passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Fields added 99 yards and a score on four receptions.

De’Veon Smith picked up his first touchdown on the season on a huge 42-yard carry to give Michigan a 31-28 lead. The running back patiently waited for a block by Jake Butt, then stormed off into the end zone with 13:16 left in the third quarter.

Liufau returned to the game, but was obviously limping on the field. He continued to take hit after hit from the Michigan defense. The Buffaloes called in redshirt freshman Steven Montez after Liufau played one drive with an injury. The Colorado starting quarterback finished the game 16-of-25 for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

The Wolverines marched down the field for 80 yards on 10 plays in just over five minutes of play. With 3:06 left in the third quarter, the drive was capped off by Ty Isaac’s first touchdown run of the season to give Michigan a 38-28 edge.

For the first time in his already impressive career, Jabrill Peppers returned a Colorado punt 54 yards to the end zone with 11:27 left in the contest to give Michigan a 45-28 lead over the Buffaloes. While the Wolverines started slow, the team picked it up towards the end to secure the win.

Peppers made an impact on all aspects of the game. He ran twice for 24 yards on the offensive end. He made nine tackles, six solo tackles, one sack, 3.5 tackles for a loss and one quarterback hit on the defensive end. Last but not least, Peppers returned four punts for 99 yards and a touchdown, along with two kickoffs for 81 yards.

Allen attempted to extend Michigan’s lead, but he missed a field goal from 44 yards out.

Michigan stayed strong in all aspects of the game at the end of the battle, which helped secure the 45-28 victory.

The defense stepped up the pace in the second half, as it was led by Ben Gedeon, Rashan Gary and Peppers, just to name a few. Gedeon logged 11 tackles, three solo tackles, 0.5 sacks and 0.5 tackles for a loss. Gary, who is a true freshman and former No. 1 athlete in the 2016 class, made four tackles, two solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.

Next week, Michigan will open up Big Ten Conference play against the Penn State Nittany Lions (2-1) at Michigan Stadium.