Sophomore quarterback Tom Smith, who had played only one down with the varsity, passed, ran and directed an inexperienced backfield to the upset in Atlanta.
The Tigers (1-3), who had not had a touchdown this season, scored on runs of one and nine yards by Smith, a 13-yard dash by 174-pound fullback Mike Dion and a 16-yard run by Dion's backup, 174-pound Tony Wiley.
"I'm just sick," said Georgia Tech Coach Bill Curry. "We had a great week of practice, but you couldn't tell that today."
Tech (1-2), hurt by fumbles, penalties and dropped passes, scored on freshman Robert Lavette's 13-yard run, Mike Kelley's nine-yard pass to fullback Ronny Cone and Ron Rice's 41-yard field goal.
The Yellow Jackets started off as if they intended to run away with the game, scoring in the first four minutes, and led, 15-14, in the third quarter. But Memphis State went 83 yards in 19 plays and took the lead for good, Smith scoring on his one-yard run.
Smith didn't figure prominently in Memphis State's preseason plans because he missed all of spring practice with a knee injury.