In 1904 football, the forward pass was just a blip in Pop Warner’s imagination. The game looked more like rugby than anything else. And the boundary was more suggestion than a rule.
On Nov. 5, OU and Oklahoma A&M staged their first football game, and while it would be many years before Bedlam began describing the rivalry, that word never was more appropriate than in the first meeting at Island Park in Guthrie. Oklahoma was not even yet a state, and Guthrie was the territorial capital. A local commercial club enticed the university teams to meet, and so they did on a bitter cold day. The park was lined by Cottonwood Creek, which a century later still is prone to flooding, and its banks were overrun on this day. The creek looked shallow but in fact was seven feet deep.
On the game’s fourth play, the Aggies were backed up on their goal line, and punter B.O. Callahan kicked the ball straight up into the stiff north wind. The ball floated back past Callahan’s head. The rules of the day were clear. The ball was free for the taking, no matter where it landed. Touchdown for the Sooners, touchback for the Aggies. With players from both teams in hot pursuit, the ball landed and bounded down a foot trail and into the murky waters of Cottonwood Creek, where, according to OU historian Harold Keith, “it bobbed and floated like a cork as the swift current swept it downstream.”
A&M’s R.C. Baird tried to use a stick to fish out the ball. But OU’s T. Becker Matthews knocked Baird into the water. Matthews deduced that that put Baird closer to the ball, so in went Matthews, too. They battled for the slippery ball, and finally Matthews dunked Baird into the water, sending Baird scrambling for the banks. Meanwhile, an A&M played named Burleson and OU’s Ed Cook and Frank Long jumped in, too, and Cook won the race. He grabbed the ball, lugged himself out of the water and touched the ball down for what has to be the oddest touchdown in Bedlam history.
The Aqua Men of both sides played the rest of the half in their freezing uniforms, but at halftime, the OU trio compelled their reserves to offer up their dry uniforms. The game continued, and OU won 75-0. But those are long-forgotten details. What never will be forgotten is that the first Bedlam touchdown was scored not in an end zone, but on the shores of Cottonwood Creek.