WILLIAMSBURG -- Rival coaches talk of him in glowing terms. Frustrated opponents marvel at his ability. And statisticians at football games involving William and Mary have devised a whole new category for running back Robert Green.

The column is titled BT's, as in Broken Tackles. Of all the things Green does well, breaking tackles is probably the most impressive.

There was a game earlier this year in which Green bounced off five Lehigh tacklers on one play and ended up in the end zone.

"I thought I had him," said a Lehigh defender, "but he got away. He kept getting away until he got to the end zone. Then there was no place else for him to go."

Two weeks ago against Furman, Green shredded one of the best defenses in Division I-AA for 142 yards and four touchdowns.

Afterward, Furman Coach Jim Satterfield said, "Robert Green is as good a back as we've seen all year."

That hardly was faint praise. Among the teams Furman had played was Southeastern Conference power Florida.

What is it about the William and Mary junior, a native of Fort Washington, Md., that makes him so elusive?

Green says it is something he learned during his days at Friendly High School.

"One day during practice I carried the ball and got tackled," said Green. "I went down pretty easily. My coach came over and said I wouldn't have fallen down so quickly if I had been playing on concrete. I thought about it and he was right.

"From that day on," Green added, "I treat every carry as if I were running on concrete. I never want the first man who hits me to bring me down. I just try to make sure I keep going, because you never know when extra effort will pay off."

Extra effort has paid off for Green in a big way this year. Heading into the Tribe's regular season finale at Richmond today, Green has become only the third player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in a season.

Green has amassed 1,120 yards in 189 carries (a 5.9 average) for the Tribe, 8-2 and ranked ninth in the I-AA poll. He needs 167 yards to break Phil Mosser's 1970 school record, which may seem out of reach. But last week against James Madison, he rushed for 155 yards.

He also has scored 16 touchdowns in 1990 and needs one more to tie the school's one-season record of 17, set by Hall of Famer Jack Cloud in 1947.

For his career, Green has 2,380 rushing yards and trails the leader, senior fullback Tyrone Shelton, by 24 yards. Shelton surpassed the previous career record, 2,404 yards by Jimmy Kruis, just last week against Madison.

"Robert is something special to watch," said Shelton. "If you rush at him, he runs right by you. If you sit back, he'll run over you."

Green hardly fits the mold of a player who excels at bowling people over. He is not big for a runner, generously listed at 5 feet 9 and 195 pounds in the school's media guide.

But he has everything else a tackle breaker needs. He is strong, has exceptional balance and good speed, and his low-to-the ground build helps him squirt away from defenders.

"I guess my size helps my balance," said Green. "But sometimes I wish I was just a little taller."

"That's no good," said Shelton, who was listening in. "If you were taller, you'd be a bigger target."

The Tribe's game with the 1-9 Spiders will serve as a final tuneup before the I-AA playoffs start Nov. 24. The Tribe has won six straight and should host a first-round game if they beat Richmond.

"We need to keep winning," said Green. "We want to go into the playoffs on a positive note."