LONDON, Ont. — Laval linebacker Ian Leroux skipped out on the turf at Western Alumni Stadium for the start of practice Friday afternoon, extended his arm in a first-down motion and even blew some kisses in the air.
The Rouge et Or are feeling loose, confident and right at home after preventing the Mustangs from defending their Vanier Cup title. Next up is a return to the same field Saturday for a showdown with the Saskatchewan Huskies for the Canadian university football championship.
"We're always confident and we always think we're going to win," said Laval offensive lineman Nicolas Guay. "I think every team on the planet should think so.
"When you walk on a field, you should think that you're going to win. That's our case. We think that we're going to win and that's it."
The Huskies, meanwhile, get another shot at the Cup after dropping a 27-21 decision to Western in last year's title game at Quebec City.
Saskatchewan qualified for this year's championship with a 39-16 win over the St. FX X-Men in the Uteck Bowl last weekend.
"We've performed at this stage before," said Huskies coach Scott Flory. "We're not living in the past, but you have to be able to draw on that experience. There's an understanding that you've been there before.
"It's like the second time you go to a restaurant - you're familiar with it. Things like that, that's the part where you can draw on that a little bit and then our young guys just follow the leaders."
Laval overcame a 13-point halftime deficit last weekend in a 27-20 win over the Mustangs in the Mitchell Bowl. Arnaud Desjardins threw for 265 yards and Kalenga Muganda rushed for 173 yards in the victory.
"We're confident with our preparation," said Rouge et Or coach Glen Constantin. "We're going to face a very good team. Hopefully we get a better start than last week.
"We're going to try to make this field our home."
Constantin guided his players through a light one-hour workout on the eve of the big game. The Huskies also practised for about 60 minutes earlier in the day.
The Rouge et Or are led by receiver Kevin Mital, who won the Hec Crighton Trophy this week as the most outstanding player in U Sports football. He had 12 touchdown catches this past season and led the country with 58 catches and 751 receiving yards over eight games.
Saskatchewan quarterback Mason Nyhus was a nominee for the annual honour. He averaged 352 passing yards a game during the season and led Canada West with 18 touchdown passes.
Flory said his players had a great week of preparation and are ready to go.
"It's envisioning great things," he said. "If you can't see it in your mind, how do you expect to do it? It's just envisioning great plays."
Laval will be looking to win the Vanier Cup for a record 11th time (10-2 all-time). Last year's loss dropped the Huskies' all-time mark in the championship game to 3-7.
"A lot of the same guys are here," said Saskatchewan defensive back Charlie Ringland. "But I think we all know that we didn't get the job done last year so we have to come out just that much harder."
The teams have previously met in the Vanier Cup on two occasions, with Laval winning in 2004 and again in 2006.
Weather should be a non-factor Saturday. The forecast called for sunny skies and a high of 10 C.
Canadian singer-songwriter Delaney Jane will perform during the halftime show.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press