Clemson's loss at Auburn was viewed as progress. The loss to Miami was just an off game.

But Clemson's loss at North Carolina on Saturday is undeniably cause for concern.

The Tigers could only muster a field goal in the first half, spotting the Tar Heels a 14-3 halftime lead that they could not overcome.

The 21-16 loss was Clemson's third straight, and they now sit at 2-3 (0-2 ACC) without a quality win.

Clemson's offense struggled, amassing just 305 total yards. The Tigers went away from their offensive strength, the running game, opting to pass on nearly 60 percent of their plays.

Andre Ellington, the ACC's leading rusher, carried the ball just 12 times, totaling 55 yards. Jamie Harper had a 10-yard touchdown run, but gained just 17 yards on his other 10 carries.

The coaching staff has indicated that Ellington will receive a bigger workload this week. It's probably three games too late.

"He's been our most explosive guy. We have to make sure he's getting more opportunities and we'll do that," head coach Dabo Swinney said.

Clemson went with a young starting receiving corps against North Carolina, including redshirt sophomore Jaron Brown, redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal, and true freshman DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins had a team-high seven catches, and Brown caught a 74-yard touchdown pass.

The defense held North Carolina to 255 total yards, but they couldn't stop the Tar Heels from converting on several fourth downs late in the game.

Da'Quan Bowers continues to be the best player on the Tiger defense. He sacked North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates twice, giving the junior six in just five games this year.

The Clemson defense did not force a North Carolina turnover, as the secondary continues to struggle to make the big plays it was able to make last year.

Clemson hosts Maryland this week in a game that the Tigers must win to keep alive any hope at defending their Atlantic Division title.