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Buffaloes push but can't break through, fall to Michigan 45-28

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The Buffs kept it interesting, but failed to adjust in the second half.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes got their moneys worth in Michigan— all $1.5 million. That’s the amount the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines paid CU for the Buffs’ last non-conference game of 2016.

Many critics doubted if Colorado was up for the challenge against the stronger opponent in Michigan, but after the first half that perspective might change.

CU started the game off strong with touchdowns on both sides of the ball. Sefo Liufau found Devin Ross on a well-orchestrated 37-yard pass for the Buffs’ first score and linebacker Derek McCartney gathered a fumble forced by Chidobe Awuzie on his way towards the end zone. CU shocked the masses at the "Big House’ with a 14-0 lead at the 11:48 mark in the first quarter.

Michigan’s quarterback Wilton Speight started the game out flat and squandered three drives, all resulting in punts. The Wolverines scoring drought ended on special teams, after Buffs punter Alex Kinney had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by UM receiver Grant Perry.

Despite the score and another short punt from Kinney, the Wolverines looked unbalanced through the first quarter and couldn’t stop the Buffs offense. CU gained 195 yards of total offense after the first quarter and held a 21-7 lead.

Michigan awakened in the second quarter, scoring 17 unanswered points and taking a 24-21 lead before halftime. Colorado wouldn't be done, firing back out of the locker room with a quick 70-yard touchdown strike from Liufau to Shay Fields. Liufau took a shot after the throw and was hurt on the play and even though he attempted to come back for a series, the Buffaloes didn't have the General to guide them to victory.

Michigan quickly took control of the game and showed why they are a top five ranked team. A 42-yard touchdown run from Wolverines running back De’Veon Smith would be the start of another of the Buffs shut down in the second half.

Colorado’s defense gave up 397 yards to Michigan and struggled in the second half but did manage to push the turnover in a game streak to 16.

Buffaloes defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt wasn’t pleased with the performance, "We’ve got to play better defensive against a team like that," Leavitt said. "As a football team the only way we’re going to win here is if our offense, defense and special teams all play together. That didn’t happen today at all"

Leavitt was emotional after the loss and will walk away still unsatisfied.

"We lost and that burns my behind. I didn’t come here to play close, I came here to beat Michigan— That was all my mindset and we didn’t get it done."

Leavitt expects better from his teams and isn't accepting a closer than expected loss, "I didn’t come to Colorado to play people close, I came to Colorado to help build a program and to win games like this."

Liufau threw for 246 yard and three touchdowns before being taken out of the game with ten minutes remaining in the third quarter. He was replaced by backup Steven Montez, who finished the game without completing a pass. After the game, coach Mike MacIntyre called the injury to Sefo an ankle sprain and an evaluation will be done next week.

MacIntyre knows the Buffs must improve from this loss, "We made some mistakes we need to correct."

However, Mac hasn't lost confidence in his team after failing to execute in the second half.

"I believe that we have a good football team. There was a couple things that happened out there that changed the momentum a little bit, but our guys kept battling hard."

The Buffs also suffered a significant loss with kicker Diego Gonzalez out for the season with a torn achilles, per MacIntyre. McCartney was taken out of the game as well due to an unknown injury. No word on his status going forward.

Colorado has a tough week ahead as they travel 2,400 miles to the west to take on Pac-12 foes, the Oregon Ducks. Next Saturday's conference game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks.