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Laval University Rouge et Or quarterback Bruno Prud'homme throws a pass during the team practice at Laval University in Quebec City, November 25, 2010. The Rouge et Or will play the University of Calgary Dinos for the Vanier Cup on November 27. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (MATHIEU BELANGER)
Laval University Rouge et Or quarterback Bruno Prud'homme throws a pass during the team practice at Laval University in Quebec City, November 25, 2010. The Rouge et Or will play the University of Calgary Dinos for the Vanier Cup on November 27. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (MATHIEU BELANGER)

Rise and shine, it's Vanier Cup time Add to ...

On top of the usual challenges associated with playing late November football in Canada, the contestants for the Vanier Cup will cope with another that hasn't been an issue on most big-time gridirons since the leather-helmet era.

The University of Calgary Dinos and the host Laval Rouge et Or will take the field for an 11:45 a.m. EST kickoff on Saturday, primarily because the stadium where the game is being played doesn't have the benefit of floodlights.

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The visitors, who went through the early kickoff experience last year in a hard-fought loss to Queen's on the Laval campus, aren't complaining, but it's likely something the Dinos didn't need in a game in which they face a team that is 43-0 on their home turf and 5-0 in Vanier Cups.

"It makes it more difficult for sure, on our time it's like a 9:30 a.m. start. … It's tough, but Quebec City has done an outstanding job at the Vanier this year and last year, they've certainly done themselves proud. You've got to give and take, right?" Dinos coach Blake Nill said. "Quebec City's raised the bar, I have no problem going in at 11."

Added Dinos running back Steven Lumbala, who ran for 127 yards and scored the decisive touchdown in the Mitchell Bowl last week, "I don't think it'll be too much of a factor, we're adjusting pretty well over here and everybody has gotten their sleep, so I think come game time it will be fine."

The late-morning kickoff time appears to be a much bigger issue in Canadian Interuniversity Sport circles.

These are tricky times for the organization, which has already been beset this year by a major doping scandal and a furor over player eligibility - televising the CIS's annual championship football showcase at 8:45 a.m. Pacific time has angered several within the body.

Sources within the CIS structure complain that Laval signed an undertaking as part of its two-year hosting agreement that lights would be installed at the PEPS physical education complex that's home to the Rouge et Or.

Though the sporting body hasn't sanctioned Laval for the apparent breach, sources said the CIS hasn't ruled out imposing a punishment.

Laval officials blame the absence of lights on construction delays - work was originally slated to begin on a new PEPS in 2009 but didn't start until this past August - and a disagreement with Quebec's provincial power utility.

CIS head Marg McGregor could not be reached for comment.

With flurries and cold winds on the horizon for the game Saturday, organizers have their fingers crossed that the outcome on the field isn't affected.

As it is, the stands will be packed with more than 17,000 fans, the vast majority of whom are hoping to see Laval win its first Vanier Cup - and sixth overall - at home.

"Defensively, we've had great support from the crowd all year. … To have a full stadium on Saturday should make a difference. I'm sure they've prepared for it, but living it for real, with 17,000-18,000 people, may end up being a factor for their offence," Laval quarterback Bruno Prud'homme said.

After falling at the next-to-last hurdle last season - the Rouge et Or lost on the road to Queen's at the Mitchell Bowl - the 9-0, top-ranked men from Laval are determined to win this year.

As evidence of their team spirit, nearly every player has had his hair chopped off into Mohawks.

The Rouge et Or bring a fearsome defence and polished offence into the university football season's finale, but are dealing with several key injuries - Prud'homme is still recovering from a fearsome hit in the Uteck Bowl last week, and three of Laval's four starting defensive linemen sat out practice this week with various ailments.

The hosts are not the only ones dealing with injury worries.

Dinos quarterback Erik Glavic, who has a history of knee trouble, is again fighting a balky knee, and said he just hopes it holds out long enough to get him through what he said will be his last football game.

"I'm just hoping [the knee]doesn't knock me out of the game, it's obviously not 100 per cent, it's hanging in there," he said.

 

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