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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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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Abby Wambach wins ESPY award for Best Play

Just days after it occurred on the pitch, the game-tying header scored by former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil on Sunday won the ESPY for Best Play as announced during the award ceremony Wednesday evening.

Down 2-1 and facing the earliest elimination from World Cup play in United States history, Wambach converted a beautiful cross from Megan Rapinoe to tie the game and force a penalty kick shootout, which the Americans eventually won 5-3.

With the ESPYS set to air three days later, ESPN‘s producers decided to add the connection between Rapinoe and Wambach to the Best Play category as what they termed an “extra time” nomination on Wednesday. Even with only a short window for fans to vote (it is the only award that can be voted on until the night of the show), Wambach and the USA brought home one of the most prestigious awards from the event.

Defeating France 3-1 on Wednesday, the U.S. advanced to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1999. The Americans will face Japan on Sunday at 2 p.m. live on ESPN.

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Wambach’s game-tying goal propels U.S. to penalty kick victory over Brazil in 2011 World Cup

On the brink of the earliest elimination from a World Cup in their country’s history, the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team was saved as former Florida Gators soccer star Abby Wambach directed a sharp header into the net two minutes into injury time during extra time to tie the match 2-2 and force a penalty kick finish.

Leading 1-0 for most of the match after being on the positive end of an own goal by Brazil just minutes into the contest, the USWNT found themselves the victim of atrocious officiating. Following a questionable red card that took USA down to 10 women, Brazil was awarded a penalty kick as the foul occurred inside the box. After missing the try, Brazil was given a second chance after the referee noted that either USWNT goaltender Hope Solo moved off the line prior to the kick (she didn’t) or an American player encroached into the box before the kick.

Brazil took advantage and tied the match 1-1, forcing two 15-minute extra time periods. Marta, the five-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, scored quickly for Brazil during the first extra time, putting USA at a distinct disadvantage as the clock was running down.

Failing to connect on attempt after attempt, the USWNT finally found their equalizer as Megan Rapinoe rocketed a cross in to the far post, allowing Wambach to propel herself forward and tie the match by heading the ball home.

Penalty kicks followed with USA making all five of theirs to complete an incredible come-from-behind victory and remain alive in the World Cup. The USWNT will square off against France on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. (ESPN) in semifinal action.

Wambach’s teammate, fellow former Florida soccer star Heather Mitts, celebrated USA’s thrilling penalty kick victory with a post-match Gator Chomp:

Wambach’s post-match comments:

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