With 42 lettermen returning, including several key players who missed last season with injuries, Coach Joe Pascale is confident the Cardinals will improve on their 6-3 record.

The key returnee is senior receiver Mike Stotz, who set a school record by catching 43 passes for 943 yards in his sophomore year. Stotz broke his collarbone a year ago this week in a freak accident before the season started. "He's in fine health now," Pascale said. a"He should be ready for the opening practice sessions." Stotz will be on the receiving end of spirals from senior quarterback Steve Stanislav, who completed 49 percent of his passes last year for 1,474 yards and 10 touchdowns. c

Tailback Sammy Lefaro also is recovering from an injury which shortened his '79 season -- a broken wrist.

Pascale hopes Lofaro can regain his 1978 form when he ran for 511 yards and eight touchdowns. Without Lofaro, the Cardinal running game is in trouble.

Former St. John's fullback Jim Mills and fullback Greg Ciuba are academically ineligible. "I may be forced to alter the offense a bit for smaller, quicker backs," Pascale said. His starting fullback likely will be a freshman.

The Cardinal defense was the best of all small colleges in the nation, according to Pascale, and was instrumental in beating rival Georgetown, 13-6, last season for the third win in four tries over the Hoyas. The Cardinals are going for their seventh straight winning season.