If you ask Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, a third straight bowl win was sweet. The way it happened was even better.
"This is a very significant fact for our football team," Brooks said afterward. "What I am more proud of is probably the way we did it."
The Wildcats (7-6), who lost three straight games and six of their last eight and stumbled into the postseason, but left Memphis with a stride in their step after snapping a three-game losing streak.
Kentucky entered the contest without a standout playmaker, had an array of standout performances in the last two quarters to overcome one of the largest deficits in the history of this bowl.
Sure Ventrell Jenkins was the Most Valuable Player after he returned a fumble recovery 56 yards for a touchdown with 3:02 left to cap Kentucky's successful comeback.
How about David Jones? Jones opened the second half with a 99-yard touchdown return to give the Wildcats new life following a miserable showing in the first half.
"It put a spark in the whole team," Jones said.
The play ended up being the turning point for Kentucky and led to East Carolina's downfall.
"Things just took off for us from there on out," Brooks said.
"Special teams played a huge role," East Carolina coach Skip Holtz added. "We didn't get it done on special teams. Give Kentucky credit that was obviously the difference in the football game."
While Jones and the special teams unit were successful, it would be easy to overlook Mike Hartline, who lost his starting job to Randall Cobb following his season-ending knee injury in the team's loss to Tennessee.
Like Kentucky, East Carolina opened the season with promise and defeated Virginia Tech and West Virginia in its first two games, but stumbled and finished with a 9-4 record and a runner-up finish in Conference-USA.
The Pirates won the first half. Kentucky claimed victory in the second frame to salvage an otherwise disappointing season.
Kentucky trailed 16-3 at halftime, putting a damper on the school's first appearance in the prestigious bowl.
"That wasn't motivating at all," Kentucky senior running back Tony Dixon said. "That's something that we have done in the past and we continued to do that tonight. We always come back the second half and play better."
No excuses were given for this slow start, but altogether, the Wildcats played with a makeshift team that was without starting quarterback Randall Cobb and a consistent receiver and a running back.
Quarterback Mike Hartline, who began the season and led the Wildcats to four straight victories, turned in a solid outing in his return to the starting lineup.
Hartline showed courage under fire and completed 19-of-31 passes for 204 yards.
Finally, the team's senior class gets a share of the credit for taking this program to another level.
"It feels good to go out the way we did." Dixon said.
"We went from 3-8 to three straight bowl games," he said. "It's unbelievable."