COLUMBIA — There might not be so much hand-wringing about South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw’s shoulder this week, after all.

The past two Sundays, USC coach Steve Spurrier was uncertain about whether Shaw would be able to play in the next game, against East Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham. Shaw did start Saturday against UAB, but left late in the first half after getting hit while he threw, a collision that aggravated the slight fracture in his right (throwing) shoulder blade.

Still, Spurrier sounded more optimistic Sunday about Shaw’s chances of playing in this Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. (WCSC/CBS-TV) home game against Missouri, a Southeastern Conference East Division game in which things will start to get serious for the Gamecocks as they chase the division title.

“It could be a hairline fracture in there, doctors say, that causes a lot of pain when he lands on it,” Spurrier said. “He should be very similar status-wise to what he was last week. Whether or not he can practice, we’ll have to wait and see. But he should be certainly able to suit up and play this weekend. This is not a surgery-type injury. It’s a small, little fracture, they call it, or like a bone bruise of some nature. It’s just painful. And it’s not going to get any worse, they say.”

After the UAB game, Shaw said his initial injury, suffered in the Aug. 30 season opener at Vanderbilt, was a “crack” in his shoulder blade. He was kneed in the back of the shoulder blade as he slid while finishing a run.

Dylan Thompson played for Shaw against East Carolina and replaced him against Alabama-Birmingham.

Spurrier is confident now in Thompson’s ability as an understudy, but he took issue with the way Shaw had to leave the UAB game.

“Doctors and trainers said if (Shaw) hadn’t really gotten hit like that (against UAB) and landed in the way he did (right on the sore spot), he would have been OK throughout the game,” Spurrier said. “They’ve got all kind of rules now (in college football) that you can’t touch anybody above the neck. We’re trying to avoid concussions.

“But obviously, there’s no rule about tackling the quarterback and burying him in the ground the way the Arkansas kid (Tyler Wilson) got hurt (against Louisiana-Monroe two games ago) and the way Connor got hurt (Saturday) night. In the NFL, they protect them a little bit better than we do in college. We do everything to protect helmet-to-helmet hits and hitting defenseless players, but to me, after the quarterback has thrown the ball and you know he’s already thrown the ball, that should be a defenseless player that we need to protect better.”

As his 3-0 team prepares for a step up in competition, Spurrier was also displeased with USC’s run blocking in Saturday night’s 49-6 win over UAB. Aside from two carries that totaled 93 yards, the Gamecocks averaged 2.9 yards on their other 29 carries against the Blazers.

“There’s maybe a couple (offensive linemen) in there that we need to look at to see if someone else can play better,” Spurrier said.

Note

South Carolina moved from No. 8 to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since it was No. 6 in 2007, which was its highest since it was No. 2 in 1984.

USC also moved up in the USA Today coaches’ poll, from No. 9 to No. 8.