An overflow crowd of 18,000 is expected to ring the Telus Stadium field, virtually all cheering for the defending champion Laval Rouge et Or, who have won 64 consecutive home games dating to a 14-13 loss to the University of Montreal Carabins on Sept. 19, 2004.
The No. 3 Dinos will try to end that streak when they face No. 2 Laval in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship game on Saturday afternoon. Both teams are 11-0 this year.
"I don't think my young kids are feeling any pressure," Nill said Friday after his team went through a final walkthrough on the synthetic turf. "I'm amazed at how loose they are.
"Instead of telling the kids to be ready for the big crowd and the hostile environment and all that, I've been saying that I've always enjoyed playing here. This is my favourite place to play. I enjoy the hostile environment."
The stadium seats 12,257, but 18,000 tickets have been sold and there will be throngs of fans standing around the perimeter and in the corners. Laval is perhaps the only Canadian university team that routinely draws large crowds to its games.
Laval's streak includes a 29-2 victory over Calgary the last time the teams met in a Vanier Cup in 2010. That game, played in a snowstorm, saw the Dinos repeatedly make uncharacteristic errors, especially dropped passes.
Linebacker Doctor Cassama, one of three Dinos remaining from the 2010 Cup, has been filling in his teammates on what to expect.
"I was here my first year," he said. "It's very loud.
"We've never played in a place that gets this loud. Obviously, that's going to be a big factor in the game. We have to overcome those things and settle down and play our game. But it's hard. It's a tough place to play."
Laval kick returner and receiver Guillaume Rioux is aware of the homefield advantage.
"It pumps us up a lot," said Rioux, who will have family in the stands for what will be his last game. "It gives us energy. For other teams, I can't tell you, but I think it can be intimidating."
History is not on Calgary's side. The Dinos have faced Laval in playoff games three times since 2008 and lost them all by wide margins. The teams met at Laval for an exhibition game Aug. 24 and the Rouge et Or won 32-3.
Nill, who coached eight years at St. Mary's before moving to Calgary, is 0-3 in his three Vanier Cups against the Rouge et Or. Coach Glen Constantin, in his 13th year at Laval, has won six of the institution's record seven Cups.
There are similarities between the squads.
Calgary began the year with Canada West MVP Eric Dzwilewski at quarterback, but he as injured in the season opener and Andrew Buckley took over. Laval began with 2012 Vanier Cup starter Tristan Grenon at QB, but he lost the job in mid-season to Alex Skinner.
Both teams lean heavily on their running games, as was witnessed in the national semifinals.
Mercer Timmis, who led the CIS in rushing with 1,157 yards and 18 touchdowns, led a ground attack that gained 305 yards in a 44-3 win over No. 1 Western last Saturday.
Laval rushed for 313 yards in a 48-21 victory on a slick field at Mount Allison. Pascal Lochard started at running back, but left with a knee injury, only to have 2012 Vanier Cup MVP Maxime Boutin take over. They also have Guillaume Bourassa taking a share of the carries.
Lochard missed last year's Cup game with a knee injury, but he was back practising this week and said he is ready.
"When that happened it was really awful and stressful for me, but after I saw the medical staff and they put ice on it, I knew I was OK," said Lochard, who resumed practising on Thursday. "I had all my strength. It wasn't the same feeling as when I tore my MCL."
Laval boasts the country's top defence, allowing only 11.5 points per game and 75.8 yards against the run.
"It's going to be a challenge," said Timmis. "We know they're big, fast and physical up front.
"We're playing a well-coached defence, the No. 1 defence in the country, so we know what to expect. Hopefully we can move the ball."
Laval won its 11th straight Quebec conference title this season to earn a record fourth consecutive visit to the Vanier Cup. Their only loss was in 2011 in overtime to McMaster.
Calgary has won six straight Canada West titles. They weren't expected to repeat this season with 11 new players on defence — especially after Dzwilewski went down. But they managed to run the table in conference play and the playoffs so far.
Dzwilewski was given the green light by doctors to return this week, but Nill said he will not dress because it would burn his fourth year of CIS eligibility. He also said that Dzwilewski is not up to game speed and would likely not be able to contribute much even if he dressed.
"Eric has two years, but if I play him he has one year (remaining)," said Nill. "Buckley may be going to med school next year and I may lose him.
"I want to have at least one starting quarterback for the next two years. It's a business decision."Suggest a correction