ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A little adversity didn't hurt No. 4 Michigan as it wrapped up its non-conference schedule.
The Wolverines won their first two games by a combined 97 points but found themselves staring at a 14-point deficit against Colorado on Saturday. With a flurry of big plays, plus an untimely injury to Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau, the Wolverines right themselves and pulled away to a 45-28 victory at Michigan Stadium.
"They hit us in the mouth quite a few times and we hit back," Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight said. "That was big for us, in the third game of the season. We took a few big blows but we were able to swing back."
De'Veon Smith scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 42-yard run early in the third quarter.
The Wolverines (3-0) also had two special-teams touchdowns, including Jabrill Peppers' 54-yard punt return. Amara Darboh caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half from Speight, who passed for 229 yards.
Speight hung tough despite taking a hit in the right shoulder. He sported a bandage around the arm when he met with the media.
"Amara Darboh made a huge play. It was a game of big plays, really," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. "You look at how they were getting their points, they came on big plays, and so were ours. A lot of guys were making plays. It wasn't just one of them, it was a team effort."
Liufau left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. X-rays were negative.
He was hit hard while delivering a 70-yard scoring strike to Shay Fields on the Buffaloes' first possession of the half. Liufau played during Colorado's ensuing series but was hobbling around and took a sack on the final play of the possession. Liufau completed 16 of 25 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
Liufau's replacement, redshirt freshman Steven Montez, did not complete any of his seven passes. Receiver Devin Ross caught seven passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns for the Buffaloes (2-1).
"There were a couple of things that happened out there that changed the momentum a little bit," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Our guys kept battling hard, and we can fix the things we screwed up."
The Buffaloes' special teams gaffes included a blocked punt returned for a score, another punt that hit the back of a blocker, and a missed field goal along with Peppers' return.
"It hurt the game, for sure," MacIntyre said. "It was a big part of the game."
The Liufau-Fields hookup briefly put the Buffaloes in front. The Wolverines quickly responded with Smith's 42-yard scoring run just 1:44 into the half, giving them a 31-28 lead.
Ty Isaac's 1-yard scoring run, set up by Grant Perry's 54-yard reception, extended Michigan's advantage to 38-28.
Peppers' return with 11:27 remaining sealed the victory.
Peppers also had 3 1/2 tackles for loss as a linebacker/safety and rushed for 24 yards on two offensive carries.
"He's the best athlete, pound for pound, in college in any sport," Speight said. "He's a freak."
The Wolverines erased a 21-7 deficit with 17 unanswered points before halftime.
Ross got behind safety Dymonte Thomas on a 37-yard scoring strike from Liufau on Colorado's first possession. The Buffaloes' defense delivered the next touchdown, as defensive back Chidobe Awuzie recorded a sack-fumble against Speight. Derek McCartney scooped up the ball at the 18 and rumbled to the end zone.
The Wolverines got on the board with their third blocked kick this season. Michael Jocz blocked Alex Kinney's punt attempt and the ball bounced around until Perry picked it up at the 6-yard line. He trotted into the end zone to make it 14-7.
Ross caught his second touchdown pass with 3:49 still remaining in the quarter.
Jehu Chesson's 17-yard end around cut the Buffaloes' lead to 21-14.
Kenny Allen's 39-yard field goal with 1:59 left in the half sliced Colorado's lead to four.
Darboh eluded a couple of tackle attempts and scooted down the left side on his 45-yard catch-and-run with 33 seconds left in the half.
NOTES: Colorado has now lost 23 straight games to ranked opponents, including 12 under head coach Mike MacIntyre. ... The Buffaloes led by a combined score of 80-0 at halftime in their previous two games. ... Michigan is now 50-26-1 all-time against current Pac-12 opponents, while Colorado is 35-65-3 against current Big Ten schools. ... The Wolverines lead the all-time series 4-1, with the only loss being the Buffaloes' 27-26, last-second victory in 1994 when Kordell Stewart hit Michael Westbrook with a 64-yard Hail Mary pass. ... Michigan opens its Big Ten season against Penn State on Saturday, while Colorado faces Pac-12 foe Oregon.