One of the biggest plays for Antoine Cason last season was one he missed.
With 2:14 remaining and Arizona leading Cal 24-20, Cason lunged to tackle Bears receiver DeSean Jackson but came up short. Jackson took the pass 63 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, replay officials ruled Jackson stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone.
Cason missed his shot to tackle Jackson, but he got the better of his former high school rival on the scoreboard. Arizona's Ronnie Palmer ended the Cal possession with an interception, and the Wildcats preserved the 24-20 win.
The upset cost Cal an outright Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth.
The game was yet another one-on-one battle between two players who went to high school fewer than 10 miles apart.
Jackson, who graduated from Long Beach Poly in Los Angeles, finished the day with six catches and 131 yards - including a 62-yard touchdown reception. He added a 95-yard punt return for a score.
Cason, who graduated from Long Beach (Calif.) Los Alamitos, earned a victory that day. His 39-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave Arizona the lead.
Hardly the first meeting between the country's top receiver and top defensive back, Jackson and Cason have gone toe-to-toe since their teenage years.
"I think we keep it even," Cason said. "I'd like to say I got the better of him last year. He'll tell you he got the better of me."
Cason and Jackson have gained familiarity with each other over the years, and together they are among the country's elite.
In Rivals.com's latest power rankings, Cason is ranked first among defensive backs. Jackson takes the top spot among receivers and special teams players.
"I've been playing against that dude since high school," Jackson said. "He's a great player and I'm a great player. They've got us ranked at the top of our positions for a reason."
Though they never played a varsity game against each other until college (they played in separate leagues), Jackson and Cason developed their rivalry during summer leagues and seven-on-seven tournaments.
One on one
Head-to-head meetings for No. 1 players in the Rivals.com Week 1 power rankings
They've jawed at each other on the field since high school but maintained a friendly rivalry.
"We talk trash, but we're friends off the field," Cason said. "There's a mutual understanding that we're trying to do our job."
Just as they play on opposite sides of the ball, Jackson and Cason took separate paths to the top of the Pac-10.
Jackson was a five-star prospect at Long Beach Poly and was coveted by many schools. One program that showed interest in Jackson was USC, and several of his teammates went on to become Trojans. Jackson spurned the Men of Troy and decided to play for Cal.
Cason was a three-star prospect who caught the eye of Arizona coach Mike Stoops while Stoops was Oklahoma's defensive coordinator. Stoops mistook Cason for a more highly touted recruit. Though he didn't recruit Cason to Oklahoma, Stoops offered him a scholarship when he arrived at Arizona.
Though Cason and Jackson have met on the field numerous times, they are just as likely to run into one another at postseason awards ceremonies. They are All-America candidates and front-runners to win several positional honors.
"It really is a good thing coming from the same area," Cason said. "I like him as a competitor. I'm sure he feels the same, and we bring the best out of each other."