Early in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, Wesleyan's football team was threatening to score. While the Polar Bears held a 12-0 advantage, the Cardinals were gaining some steam as they pushed from the Bowdoin 38-yard line. From the advantageous field position, the Cardinals marched to the 14-yard line, but went no further.

The Polar Bears made three consecutive stops, culminating with a third down sack of quarterback Matt Coyne that forced Wesleyan to settle for a field goal.

As the players ran off the field fired up from a critical stop, a man came running from the sidelines jumping up and down, slapping helmets and shoulders: Andrew Cohen, the coach behind the defense's amazing turnaround this year.

Cohen, the team's new defensive coordinator, has breathed football all his life, and began coaching in his junior year of college when he had to sit the season out after two knee surgeries. Since then, he's held coaching positions at D-I and D-III schools including Lycoming, Bucknell, Columbia, Fordham and Stony Brook.

Cohen said he came to Bowdoin because it was the best opportunity for him and his family, citing the sense of community at the College.

As for the players he was inheriting, Cohen said he saw great potential for their performance both in this season and in years to come.

"I was impressed with how hard they played as I watched the film," said Cohen. "We have a chance to get better every year. As a first year coach, it's hard in the NESCAC [because] we're not allowed to meet with the kids. So the first time we did any football together was orientation."

From day one, Cohen thrust the athletes into a completely new defensive scheme.

While the team made great strides in the start of the year, the season opener against Williams showed there was still a lot of work to do. But Bowdoin played more physical, was hitting harder, had a lot of chippy play, and had everyone get to the ball.

That kind of performance was exactly what Head Coach Dave Caputi was aiming to achieve when he began the search for a defensive coordinator. Cohen's philosophy fit the bill.

"There were certain things we were looking for because of the personnel we have," said Caputi. "We're not a big defense that can overpower people and be stationary. We have to move, we have to slant, we have to attack."

"There has to be a focus every day and you've got to bring it every day," said leading tackler Griffin Cardew '14 of the work ethic Cohen preaches in practice. "He's always on our case, but he wants us to get better every week."

And during games, the defense never watches the offense play, according to captain Ian Vieira '12. When the defenders are off the field, Cohen is constantly talking to them about the previous series—what they did well, what they have to improve, and the adjustments they have to make.

Cohen's relentlessness has become part of the fabric of the unit.

The results of this approach, though somewhat inconsistent, speak for themselves. After finishing ninth in the league last year in total defense, Cohen has spearheaded a turnaround and the team now sits comfortably at third place.

The Polar Bears' record is now 3-4, but the defense has had standout performances against Tufts, Hamilton and Wesleyan. While it could be argued that these games were not true tests of its strength, considering those teams have a combined record of 5-16, it's a step in the right direction.

"We have to stop the run, and we have to keep the ball in front of us," Cohen said. "We've proven we can play with any team in this league; we just have to learn to do it every week."

Cohen's obsession with the game is exceeded only by his passion for his players.

"He's a very knowledgeable football coach and he expects a lot from his players, but he also genuinely cares for them as people and he puts a lot of effort into getting to know them," said Director of Athletics Jeff Ward.

Cardew recalled morning meetings when Cohen brought the team donuts and days when he would schedule meetings for later in the day to let his players get some sleep.

"He's really a mentor as well as a coach," said Vieira. "He really wants you to succeed in not only football, but in life."

"Seeing some of our kids, like [senior]Chris Martin who worked here during the summer, develop as people and watching them have a lot of success and walking around with confidence, that's pretty special," said Cohen. "I think that will carry over into whatever they choose to do and that's probably one of the biggest joys we have as coaches."

In the final football game of the year against Colby tomorrow, Bowdoin hopes to win its sixth straight game against the Mules. And if they do, much of the credit will be due to one man running down the field.