FOUR BITS: Zook on Muschamp; Black; Wambach

1 » As a defensive-minded coach with no former head coaching experience, new Florida Gators boss Will Muschamp has been compared to former Florida and current Illinois head coach Ron Zook on numerous occasions. Florida fans, obviously, hope the comparison ends there as Zook’s tenure with the Gators (while successful from a recruiting standpoint) was filled with underwhelming records (23-14 combined) and early eliminations from the title hunt each year.

Appearing on ESPN 1000′s GameNight out of Chicago, IL on Monday, Zook offered some advice for Muschamp on his new gig. “The thing is you got be yourself,” he said. “Don’t try to be anybody else. It’s one of those jobs all you can do is the best you can do. You can’t get tied up with all the other stuff. Believe me, there’s a lot of noise in the system down as there is at a lot of places. He’ll do fine. There’s a great state base there, and he’s a good football coach. There’s no doubt they’ll do fine.”

2 » With the NFL lockout nearing its conclusion, former Gators safety Ahmad Black is excited to finally play professional football for his favorite team growing up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Selected by Tampa Bay with the No. 151 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the 2011 Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player has his sights set on a starting job but hopes to contribute in any way he can.

“I want to try to get a starting spot, but if not, then a significant role on the team,” he told the Pewter Report. “I really just can’t wait to get in there and do my thing.” In the meantime, he has been staying in shape and making sure he is ready to go when the season starts. “I’ve been pretty much training four or five times a week,” Black said. “I’ve been doing a lot of outside stuff, going to the beach and trying to relax a little bit. I know that once we start it is going to be crazy.”

3 » Returning to her hometown of Rochester, NY with locals chanting her name, former Florida striker and U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach celebrated as the city honored her with “Abby Wambach Day.” As a member of the Women’s Professional Soccer league’s magicJack squad, Wambach was in town for her team’s game but did not play even though the league set an attendance record (15,404) due to the appearance of her and other members of Team USA (Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan). “I hope I didn’t disappoint too many people tonight, but my body really needed a rest,” she told the crowd at halftime. “Honestly, I’m humbled [by your support].” Read more about Wambach’s return to Rochester and the reception she received.

4 » For the second time this offseason, Muschamp will travel to Bristol, CT to participate in another Car Wash at ESPN. Consisting of appearing in nearly all of the network’s programming over the course of a given day, the Car Wash often includes spots on First Take, SportsCenter, College Football Live and a variety of ESPN Radio programs. Muschamp, along with five other Southeastern Conference coaches (including Steve Spurrier and Dan Mullen) will be at the Worldwide Leader on Monday, July 25. The rest of the league will participate in the Car Wash on Tuesday.

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Pounceys go through the ESPN car wash

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and soon-to-be-official Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey visited the ESPN studios in Bristol, CT to participate in the famed “car wash,” which consists of making appearances on nearly every live and taped program to air on television and radio during the course of the day.

The twins and former Florida Gators offensive linemen began the day by appearing on First Take before heading over to the main studio for SportsCenter. They also dropped by the Scott Van Pelt Show, ESPN Rise, the Doug Gottlieb Show, SportsNation and NFL Live (among other shows) before departing.

Being interviewed on the Scott Van Pelt Show: Listen

Playing a game on First Take:

Talking about a number of topics on SportsCenter:

Meeting U.S. women’s soccer stars goalkeeper Hope Solo and striker Alex Morgan:

Planking on the set of NFL Live:

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Wambach nearly the hero again, but Japan fights back to win 2011 Women’s World Cup in PKs

It nearly happened again.

For the third time in as many matches, former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach appeared to be the savior for the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team, heading in a goal 14 minutes into extra time to give her squad a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, for the second time in the match, the United States squandered its lead, allowed their opponent to score an equalizer and eventually fell 3-1 in a highly-contested penalty kick finish, losing the 2011 Women’s World Cup to Japan on Sunday in Germany.

After a first half in which the USA squandered a number of scoring chances, a beautiful floating pass downfield from Megan Rapinoe to 22-year-old striker Alex Morgan at 69’ put the Americans on the board. The U.S. began playing defensively from that point forward but, just minutes later, the Japanese took advantage of poor defensive play in front of the net and scored an equalizer at 81’.

Heading into extra time, the United States got aggressive once again. Wambach took advantage of a brilliant cross and headed it into the net at 104’, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead with just over 15 minutes of regulation to play.

The second half of extra time began with the USA once again just looking to hold on, but the Japanese would have none of it, scoring just three minutes before the end of extra time to force a penalty kick finish.

The United States missed its first three penalty kicks; the first and third were blocked while the third sailed over the crossbar. Japan’s 2-0 lead was reduced briefly as Wambach struck one into the net, but a Japanese goal on the next try ended the Americans’ dream.

Should the United States have won, they would have captured a world-leading third Women’s World Cup title. The USA, which previously won in 1991 and 1999, lost in the World Cup finals for the first time in team history.

American goalkeeper Hope Solo went home with the Golden Glove Award, while Wambach was named both the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball Award winner.

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Wambach’s game-winning goal advances U.S. to 2011 Women’s World Cup finals on Sunday

Minutes away from elimination on Sunday, former Florida Gators soccer star Abby Wambach saved the day by tying the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team’s match against Brazil and forcing a penalty kick finish. With her team looking for another boost Wednesday during 2011 Women’s World Cup semifinal action against France, Wambach came through again with a deft header from the far post to give her team a 2-1 lead and propel the United States to a 3-1 victory that will place them in the finals of the world’s biggest soccer event for the first time since 1999.

Leading 1-0 after Lauren Chaney deflected a goal into the net in the ninth minute, the U.S. coughed up the lead just minutes into the second half. USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, keeping an eye on Gaetane Thiney in the box, was fooled as a beautiful floater from Sonia Bompastor got past her and into the net at 55’.

The Americans made a number of runs trying to get their lead back but were unsuccessful until the 79th minute when Wambach converted Cheney’s corner kick into a dagger header that became the game-winning goal.

Alex Morgan would tack on some insurance just three minutes later, lofting a goal into the net from the left side 82 minutes into the match.

With 12 World Cup goals in her career, Wambach is now tied for the United States record with Michelle Akers. The duo are knotted at third on the all-time World Cup scoring list, and Wambach has at least one more game to play on Sunday before hanging up her international cleats.

The U.S. will face the victor of Japan-Sweden in the World Cup finals on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. The match will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

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