Keeler: Thank you, Karl Dorrell. You, too, Jarek Broussard. CU Buffs produced a football season to remember during a 2020 we’d rather forget.

New University of Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell is introduced during a press conference in Boulder on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo by Kathryn Scott/Special to The Denver Post)

Jarek Broussard was four years old the last time CU won a bowl game. Sam Noyer was 7. Karl Dorrell was 41. Dorrell, the Buffs’ first-year football coach and the Christmas present nobody saw coming, turned 57 this past Friday.

Been a long time. Too dang long.

So, yeah. You go.

Even if it’s Shreveport on Boxing Day, you go.

“Bowl games are special, really,” CU linebacker Akil Jones told reporters. “We haven’t been to a bowl game since 2016 (in the Alamo). I was lucky enough to be a part of that group. I want to get the younger guys the experience of bowl games and know that when you make a bowl, it’s special. Because if you’re here for Christmas playing football, it means you’re a good football team.”

It means changing perceptions of the Buffs, both externally and internally. CU’s already clinched only its second winning season since 2006. If you want to be talked about in the same breath as Oklahoma State and Iowa instead of Kansas and Rutgers, it starts there.

College football programs can turn, but like ocean liners. It’s not basketball, where one player, one star, makes a mediocre roster interesting. Unless you throw a blank check and the Aflac duck at Nick Saban, it takes time. Time and repetition.

Spending the holidays with your teammates becomes a habit. So does stinking up the joint.

“It has to take place in recruiting,” former CU quarterback Joel Klatt told The Post during his junket to Boulder to call last week’s Colorado-Utah contest for Fox Sports.

“CU has to start to recruiting at a higher level. (The Buffs) have got to start making more inroads into Southern California. They’ve got to start making more inroads into the Salt Lake area, get kids out of Utah and Idaho. And then they’ve got to get their base going back again in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, getting some more of those kids like we saw with Laviska Shenault and (Jarek) Broussard and K.D. Nixon.”

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Nothing sells strangers and their parents like being on national television. Except for winning on national television.

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The Pac-12 Network is not national television. It’s barely regional television. For all the willful acts of chicanery inflicted by Commissioner Larry Scott upon the Buffs, the TV side over the last 10 years has been the most consistently, maddeningly, damning.

So, yeah. You go.

Even if it’s Fort Worth on New Year’s Eve, you go.

“You have to capitalize on recruiting,” Klatt continued, “or else this (2020 season) is just a great year. And then you go back to being whatever you are.”

Or what you were: Cute, but nationally irrelevant. The point is to make the score at the end of the game the emotional apex of the CU football experience, not when Eric Cartman introduces Ralphie.

Yes, you understand why many programs are opting out of bowl games. Yes, travel’s a risk during a pandemic. So are holiday dinners at your cousin’s bungalow.

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Yes, bowl trips are absolute money pits. But what’s one more week of red ink when you’ve taken it in the shorts as often as you have in 2020?

If you’ve come this far, why stop?

Given the current vaccine rollout pace, Dorrell could well be forced to endure another winter, spring and summer of trying to sell the Buffs on the recruiting trail without the benefit of CU’s greatest marketing strength: Boulder itself.

The sunset over the Flatirons is one of those majesties that doesn’t really translate via Google Meet. You’ve gotta be there. You’ve gotta live it. Breathe it.

Midnight Mel Tucker was — and is — more salesman than strategist. He spent a good chunk of his professional life trying to convince skeptical teens that the industrial, rusty greys of Columbus, Ohio, and East Lansing, Mich., were somehow sunny and palatial. Whenever you asked him about showing off BoCo to kids from Georgia and Louisiana, the man’s eyes twinkled like Saint Nick.

CU is the Alabama and Clemson of scenery. There’s a reason Dorrell had already built his retirement home here before athletic director Rick George ever came calling.

When the iron’s hot, you keep striking. The Buffs were one of the few squads locally — the Nuggets, for sure, maybe you throw the Avs in there, too — whose calendar year finished better than it started.

Hindsight says CU caught UCLA and Stanford at the perfect times, respectively, racing out to a 2-0 start when that 2-0 start suddenly accounted for a third of your regular season. But a winning record is a winning record, whether that’s over six games or 13.

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In October, nobody expected much of anything from CU besides showing up and getting its upperclassmen some much-deserved snaps on film for NFL scouts. Everything else? Gravy.

Only that gravy was glorious. The Buffs ran with authority. Their front seven pursued the ball like angry hornets. Their secondary cowboyed up. Their wideouts belied their youth. Their quarterback was a first-down threat every time he tucked and took off. It was as if they’d picked right back up where that 2019 home finale against Washington left off, minus Montez and Laviska. It didn’t just look sound. It looked sustainable.

One of the few things we’ll want to remember about 2020, years from now, was the grit of Dorrell’s plucky Buffs. And if you’re a four-star recruit knocking about Los Angeles, Salt Lake or Dallas, you’d be wise to remember this, too: CU’s coach now sports a lifetime FBS winning percentage of .582 — a clip that’s better than Herm Edwards (.552), Justin Wilcox (.500), Nick Rolovich (.500) or even Mario Cristobal (.477).

Dorrell’s produced only one losing season out of six as a collegiate head coach. He’s won 58.7% of his Pac-12 conference games, including a 3-1 start in Boulder. You’d have to think that last bit’s going somewhere on the front of the recruiting brochure, too. Right next to the mountains.

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